Dramatic Eastwards shift for Eutelsat
June 20, 2012
By Chris Forrester
Eutelsat used the CommunicAsia event in Singapore to announce it had bought General Electric’s GE-23 satellite at 172 degrees East. This means that Eutelsat has extended its reach well into the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, in acquiring the craft it has also secured the existing contracts on the satellite and the orbital rights associated with the location. It is paying $228 million in cash for the package, and the deal is expected to close later this year.
Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat’s CEO, told analysts in a conference call that up until now Eutelsat had been a marginal player in the Far East. “Recently we gave up on one [acquisition] opportunity because it was simply too expensive. But the trend in the region is positive. Recently we have been told by our customer in Washington that they plan to grow quite a lot in that part of the world, the Asia-Pacific.” Here, de Rosen is believed to be referring to the US government and its military demands which are expected to grow in the region in the future.
GE-23 was built by Thales-Alenia and was once operated as an SES craft (AMC-23) until GE Capital took the craft as part of its 2007 exit as a 19 percent minority shareholder in SES. The satellite will be named Eutelsat 172A when it is fully absorbed into the Eutelsat fleet. The satellite currently generates around $50 million in annual revenues. The satellite is around 80 percent occupied and has another 8.5 years left of life.
Eutelsat has made no secret that it wishes to expand, by acquisition as well as organically. And this move shows that it is prepared to invest aggressively in the right asset.