PanAmSat Corp., the satellite TV network, will be acquired by buyout specialist Kohlberg Kravis Roberts in a deal valued at $4.3 billion, the companies announced. PanAmSat's 29 satellites transmit signals for more than 2,100 channels around the world. The Guardian (London) said the deal, which includes the assumption of $750 million in debt, is a boost to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, whose DirecTV system owned 80 percent of PanAmSat. The newspaper said DirecTV will invest proceeds from the sale in new services and in paying down debt. DirecTV's customer base of 12 million households makes it the largest satellite network in the US but only about half the size of the No. 1 cable-TV provider, Comcast.
NextWave Telecom Inc. moved one step closer to emerging from bankruptcy by agreeing to a $4 billion settlement with the Federal Communications Commission in a dispute over wireless phone licenses. The dispute arose when the Greenwich, Conn., company bid $4.7 billion for the licenses at auction in 1996 but then fell behind in its payments and filed for protection from creditors two years later. The FCC repossessed and resold the licenses for almost four times as much, only to have its actions overturned in a series of federal court rulings. The new agreement allows NextWave to keep 10 percent of the licenses, most of them in the lucrative Northeast corridor.
The Carlyle Group, a leading US private equity firm, expects to invest $1 billion over the next 18 months in commercial enterprises in China, The Wall Street Journal reported. It said an investment of that magnitude would put the group in the same league as Western corporations Motorola, Eastman Kodak, Procter & Gamble, and Royal Dutch/Shell, which are spending $1 billion or more each in China.
Citing rising fuel costs, Continental and American Airlines announced increases in the surcharge they apply to most flights in the US and Canada. The hikes are from $20 to $30 for round trips and from $10 to $15 for one-way travel. Rivals United, Delta, and Northwest said they are "studying" the same move but have yet to make firm decisions. Southwest Airlines said it had no plans to impose a surcharge because of fuel costs.