Satellite TV stocks dipped Friday on word
is looking to get out of the business.
News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and
chief John Malone are in talks to swap holdings, according to published reports. If true, the deal would turn over News Corp.'s controlling interest in
to Malone's Liberty, in exchange for the 19% stake Liberty has in News Corp.
While the exchange would give media moguls Murdoch and Malone more control over their own companies, some industry analysts see it as another troubling sign for
"Given that News Corp. is one of the largest global satellite operations, and is considering selling their U.S. operations, a swap would portend a negative outlook on the satellite industry in the U.S.," Prudential Equities analyst Katherine Styponias wrote in a research note Friday. Styponias has a sell rating on DirecTV and a buy rating on EchoStar.
Satellite TV took millions of customers away from cable in the past decade by offering extensive programming selections at competitive prices.
But now that cable and phone companies have been upgrading their networks to offer service bundles including TV, fast Net and phone, satellite has been seen as a bit outgunned.
Investors had been hopeful that the increase in competition would allow EchoStar and DirecTV to merge and reap some of the estimated $3 billion in cost saving benefits through the combination of operations.
But regulators didn't warm to the idea, and with Malone getting potentially more involved, some see even less federal support.
"Malone's political finesse is not as savvy as Rupert Murdoch's. Therefore we think a merger -- which could already have had a tough time passing -- would have an even lower possibility of being approved," Styponias writes.
DirecTV shares fell 64 cents to $18.55 and EchoStar dropped $1.39 to $31.34 in Friday morning trading.