Flouting better than anticipated subscriber growth at its DirecTV subsidiary, Hughes Electronics posted an increased loss in its third quarter – up year-on-year from $93.8 million to $227.2m. The greater part of the loss, over seventy percent, stems from staff severance payments and related items.

Meantime, EchoStar hopes to strengthen its hand against rival News Corp in its bid for DirecTV, and is currently negotiating $5.5 billion in additional funding for the deal.

But regulatory rather than fiscal matters may decide which of the would-be Romeos wins the hand of DirecTV, the nation’s largest satellite broadcaster. It is widely believed that Washington would frown on EchoStar, the number two satellite company, as the resulting hybrid would control over ninety percent of the US direct-to-home satellite TV market.

General Motors, which controls Hughes, has until recently treated EchoStar’s romancings with caution, fearing the deal would be blocked on antitrust grounds. In the light of recent events, however, many believe that Washington’s attention is focused elsewhere and that GM’s management now views EchoStar’s suit as seriously as that of News Corp. “We are engaged in serious discussions with both of them,” said Hughes ceo Jack Shaw

News sources: Wall Street Journal; New York Times