EchoStar Back In The Black

LITTLETON, Colo. — EchoStar Communications Corp. returned to profitability in the second quarter, reaping more revenue from a growing subscriber base.

EchoStar , the second-largest satellite-to-home broadcaster after Hughes Electronics Corp. on Thursday reported net income of $2.1 million, or break-even on a per-share basis, compared with a loss of $133.1 million, or 28 cents a share, a year earlier.

The results soundly beat Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts were looking for a loss of 10 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Revenue rose 50% to $966.3 million from $646.1 million, topping analysts’ forecasts for revenue of $951 million, according to First Call.

EchoStar said it added about 350,000 new subscribers in the quarter, and its Dish Network had about 6.07 million subscribers as of June 30, an increase of about 41% over the same period a year earlier. Dish Network, EchoStar’s direct-broadcast satellite system, is capable of offering more than 500 channels of digital video and audio programming.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or Ebitda, came to $134 million, compared to negative Ebitda of $31 million in last year’s second quarter. EchoStar said higher average revenue of $50 per subscriber helped boost Ebitda.

EchoStar has been able to expand its subscriber base while Hughes sees a slowdown in growth. Hughes, El Segundo, Calif., on Tuesday lowered its targets for earnings and subscriber growth for the rest of the year while reporting that its second-quarter loss more than doubled.

Hughes has cut more than 600,000 net subscribers and almost $150 million in anticipated earnings from its 2001 projections since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, Hughes, a division of General Motors Corp. is reportedly moving closer to finalizing a deal to be taken over by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. amid reports that EchoStar has given up its quest to gain control of its larger rival.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.