London-based private-equity firm BC Partners was in the lead to purchase satellite operator Intelsat Ltd. for about $5 billion plus the assumption of about $11.5 billion in debt, The Wall Street Journal Online reported.

BC was in a heated auction with a bidding duo consisting of Liberty Media Holding Corp. and EchoStarCommunications Corp., which could make a fresh offer, according to the report, which cited people familiar with the matter.

None of the companies mentioned in the report was immediately available to comment.

Intelsat assets are in demand amid a renaissance in the commercial satellite market that is spurred by demand for high-definition television and faster Internet services.

Intelsat, which has a fleet of 51 satellites, leases capacity to clients such as cable television programmers to beam their channels to the head ends of cable operators.