US satellite operator EchoStar posted only its third quarterly profit in nine years in Q1 as subscriber growth proved stronger than expected.

The nation’s number two satellite-TV firm reported earnings of $58 million (€51m; £36m) for the first three months of 2003, up from a loss of $35m in Q1 last year.

Revenues jumped 23% to $1.36 billion as EchoStar gained 350,000 net new subscribers during the quarter (more than the 335,000 added a year earlier) and average revenue per user rose from $48.36 to $51.48. EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) jumped from $100m to $277m.

Meanwhile, the effects on the firm of News Corporation’s takeover of satellite market leader DirecTV are not yet apparent, according to EchoStar chief executive Charles Ergen.

“It's clear that NewsCorp's entry would be a negative for cable, and it may or may not be a negative for EchoStar,” he declared. The deal’s impact, he continued, will depend on what restrictions are imposed by regulators (the same watchdogs that blocked his own attempt to win DirecTV).

“You've got a lot of potential for mischief and concern,” he concluded. “Those are things we think regulators will look at.”

Data sourced from: The Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff