TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – General Motors Corp. said on Wednesday the automaker took seriously an unsolicited $30 billion bid by EchoStar Communications Corp. for its Hughes Electronics Corp. unit.
``If it's a serious proposal, and we think it is, we're going to take it very seriously,'' Chief Financial Officer John Devine told reporters at an annual automotive conference here. ''We're going to evaluate it. This is an important issue for us, and we're going to take the time it takes to get it right.''
Previously, when asked about EchoStar's all-stock bid for Hughes and its DirecTV satellite television service that was announced on Sunday, GM said it would examine any serious offers. But officials had declined to say if they considered the EchoStar bid seriously, and Wall Street has been skeptical of the deal.
GM is also evaluating a proposal from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Ltd., Devine said. Negotiations between News Corp. and Hughes, which would merge DirecTV with the Sky Global satellite network, have dragged on for months.
Meanwhile, at least four lawsuits were filed against GM and Hughes on Tuesday and Wednesday in Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that the automaker failed to hold a fair and open auction for Hughes.
``Contrary to the market's expectations, GM has not conducted a fair auction for Hughes but rather has unjustifiably favored News Corp. in the sale process,'' plaintiff Debbie Wurzel, a shareholder of Hughes, alleged in her lawsuit.
Wurzel asked that a judge block any deal with News Corp. ''that is not the result of an open auction process.''
GM shares were down 99 cents to $62.30 on the New York Stock Exchange in late afternoon trading. Hughes shares were up 14 cents at $20.12 on the New York Stock Exchange.
EchoStar wants to combine the more than 6 million subscribers of its Dish Network with the more than 10 million subscribers of Hughes' DirecTV service, a deal that is likely to meet tough regulatory scrutiny as it would be the dominant U.S. satellite television provider.
``It's a complicated deal,'' Devine said of the overall negotiations for Hughes. ``There's lots of moving parts. It behooves us to get something resolved sooner rather than later.''
A GM source said that the company's board of directors discussed the EchoStar bid when it met this week.
Asked if GM has requested a more comprehensive proposal from EchoStar, Devine said; ``We haven't given them any time table.''
Wall Street analysts have questioned whether an EchoStar deal for Hughes could clear antitrust concerns. They also said that GM wants cash for Hughes.
Since making the all-stock bid on Sunday, EchoStar Chief Executive Officer Charlie Ergen said the company would consider paying some cash for Hughes.
When asked about the antitrust concerns, Devine said; ''We're doing an investigation of every part of the deal, so there's nothing we've left untouched.''
News Corp. is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, which operates FOXNews.com.