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US FCC approves Dish, EchoStar merger deal, shares rise

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Thursday it approved a merger between Dish Network and satellite operator EchoStar, reuniting billionaire Charlie Ergen's telecom empire to tackle growing competition from larger U.S. carriers.

Dish shares rose 8.5% on the approval while Echostar was up 8% in afternoon trading.

Since spinning off EchoStar in 2008, Dish has looked to expand beyond satellite TV into streaming TV as well as mobile telecom services, but has faced stiff competition from bigger rivals, including AT&T and Verizon Communications.

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The FCC said Ergen will beneficially own more than 90% of the voting stock and approximately 54% of equity of the recombined company. "There is therefore no substantial change of ownership or control," the FCC said in its approval order.

The all-stock deal combines Dish's pay-TV business and its 5G network with EchoStar's satellite infrastructure that serves retail, business and government clients, which, Ergen said in August, will boost their cash flow and reduce near-term capex needs.

Dish shareholders will own about 69% of the combined company and EchoStar shareholders the rest.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)