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AT&T, EchoStar Deal Nears

The satellite-TV operator's buyout could come this week at $64 to $68 a share, a source says.


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are preparing the final terms of a $29.5 billion buyout deal that could be announced this week,

has learned.

Negotiations for AT&T to buy EchoStar have turned "hot and heavier over the last week" as bankers for the two companies try to hammer out an agreement, says a source familiar with the discussions.

The final price for the satellite-TV operator is still in negotiation, and it's likely to be somewhere between $64 to $68 a share, the source said.

EchoStar the Main Course on AT&T's Holiday Plate

var config = new Array(); config<BRACKET>"videoId"</BRACKET> = 1315742573; config<BRACKET>"playerTag"</BRACKET> = "TSCM Embedded Video Player"; config<BRACKET>"autoStart"</BRACKET> = false; config<BRACKET>"preloadBackColor"</BRACKET> = "#FFFFFF"; config<BRACKET>"useOverlayMenu"</BRACKET> = "false"; config<BRACKET>"width"</BRACKET> = 265; config<BRACKET>"height"</BRACKET> = 255; config<BRACKET>"playerId"</BRACKET> = 1243645856; createExperience(config, 8);

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AT&T has made its mind up to do the deal, and EchoStar chief Charlie Ergen is ready to move ahead with the buyout, the source adds.

An EchoStar representative said he had "no comment." AT&T also declined to comment.

Shares of EchoStar recently were up $3.94, or 10% to $43.77, while AT&T was down $1.07 to $38.48.

News of the pending deal comes nearly two months after

reported that the two companies had

started talks at a bid range between $55 and $65 a share. The deal talk had accelerated last month after AT&T hired Goldman Sachs to advise it with the discussions, as

first reported.

EchoStar's Dish Network would give AT&T a national video offering, taking the telecom company well outside its largely Southwestern-focused markets, say analysts. It would also acquire the video expertise and programming agreements necessary to operate on a national level.

AT&T's own video effort has not seen huge success so far with its costly and often delayed "U-Verse" TV-over-the-Net project. The company has had to cut back on its expansion targets as it grapples with heavy installation costs and early glitches like slow channel changing. For its part, AT&T says its channel changing is fast.

Video has become a vibrant battleground as telcos vie against cable companies with bundles of TV, Internet and calling services.