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EchoStar Communications notes big 4th-quarter loss

LITTLETON, Colo. — EchoStar Communications Corp., the nation's second-biggest satellite TV company, posted a $716 million loss for the fourth quarter Tuesday, largely because of charges related to the collapse of its planned merger with Hughes Electronics Corp.

The loss amounted to 45 cents per share for the three-month period ending Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $42.8 million in the same period last year. The Littleton-based company, which owns the Dish Network satellite service, reported $1.3 billion in revenues, up 15 percent from $1.1 billion in the fourth quarter of 2001.

The merger of EchoStar and rival Hughes Electronics, which owns the satellite TV industry leader DirecTV, fell apart last year in the face of government opposition. The two companies finally abandoned the merger in December after trying for several months to revise their proposal.

The breakup of the deal resulted in EchoStar taking charges against earnings of $690 million, including a breakup fee to Hughes Electronics.

In 2002, EchoStar lost $881 million, or 92 cents per share, compared to losses of $215.5 million, or 45 cents per share, in 2001. Revenue rose to $4.8 billion from $4 billion in 2001.