Dish investors are on ‘Charlie Ergen’s road to who knows where,’ Bloomberg says

Amassing 93.6 MHz of spectrum without a wireless network, but somewhat overtly ceding its core business, satellite-delivered linear video, to the erosive forces of over-the-top distribution, Dish Chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen is leading investors on a “road to who knows where,” noted Bloomberg in a rather compelling analysis full of relevant graphics and stats.

Indeed, Dish’s share price has increased 22.5% in the last year. But investors still don’t seem to have a clear idea of what they’re getting into. 

Having licensed almost as much spectrum as T-Mobile US (109.3 MHz) and Verizon (113.4 MHz), Dish has stockpiled spectrum valued at around $35 billion at an inflection point of rapid IoT evolution, the news service pointed out. 

Without a network—or an acquisition deal—to monetize this spectrum, “Dish risks missing its moment and chance to cash out,” Bloomberg columnist Tara Lachapelle wrote.

Meanwhile, with customer losses reaching 143,000 in the first quarter, the Englewood, Colorado-based satellite operator is on pace to exceed its 2016 customer attribution of 392,000.

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Despite the fact that bidders are interested in not only Dish’s spectrum, but the potential of its Sling TV virtual MVPD service, LaChapelle doesn’t believe Ergen—Dish’s controlling shareholder—is truly interested in M&A.

“In a somewhat anticlimactic chapter of the Dish story, the 64-year-old has put forth a vague plan to build a wireless data network that will be introduced by 2020, pushing the denouement investors have been awaiting further down the road,” she wrote. 

Ergen’s possible resistance to M&A might be just as well, Lachapelle also postulates, since all the vagaries surrounding Dish’s future plans has left a sales price very difficult to postulate. She noted that some analysts have pegged the company’s value as high as $175 a share, while others put it as low as $45 a share.