Satellite operator SES reported a revenue increase of 2.4 per cent in its first nine months to €1.378 million, although profits for the period fell from €456 million to €413 million. The fall in profits was attributed to an increase in taxes paid (of €28 million) as well as continued investment in its O3b high-throughput satellite project. SES’s CEO Romain Bausch said that its contract backlog stood at €7.4 billion (4.1 times 2012’s revenues).
“Despite some delays experienced earlier this year with regard to new satellite launches, we have significantly expanded our capacity with the launch of SES-6 in June and ASTRA 2E in September, and we now expect to launch SES-8 later this month, followed by ASTRA 5B in early December,” he said.
For the third-quarter itself, SES reported zero growth in revenues (compared with Q3/2012) of €467.7 millions, and a slight increase in operating profits of €218.3 million (€214.2 million).
Bausch said that SES’s guidance for the current full year (to December 31st) is to achieve revenue growth of 3-4 per cent.
Referring to the arbitration dispute between SES Astra and rivals Eutelsat, which SES won, SES stated: “At the beginning of September, the tribunal convened under the rules of the International Chamber of Commerce dismissed a first claim by Eutelsat seeking a declaration that SES cannot use the 500 MHz of German frequencies at the 28.2/28.5E neighbourhood without breaching a 1999 intersystem coordination agreement between Eutelsat and SES. Consequently, on 4 October 2013, Eutelsat ceased its transmissions on these frequencies, which are now being operated and commercialised by SES.
Although the arbitration continues over remaining claims of Eutelsat, SES strongly disagrees with Eutelsat’s position. In any event, SES and Eutelsat are in discussions with a view to finding a solution regarding the subject matter of the arbitration.”
Drilling down into the numbers, SES reported a slight fall in European revenues (down 0.8 percent) and North America (down 4 percent) but impressive growth internationally (up 10.3 percent) in the nine-month period. Part of that ‘international’ growth occurred in Africa. SES reported that new long-term, multi-transponder contracts on SES-5 was signed with Platco Digital, a southern African Free-To-Air operator. On the same satellite, StarTimes, the company selected to take over the operations of Top TV as part of the ODM Business Rescue process, has contracted two additional transponders to support its business development in the southern Africa region and to complement the three transponders already activated. Wananchi’s Zuku TV completed its transition from NSS-12 to SES-5, contracting a further three transponders to support its DTH offering in five countries in eastern Africa.
However, the increase in transponders available over Africa (including those available from other satellite operators) would likely lead to pricing pressures, said SES.
Available transponder capacity increased by 2 per cent compared to 30 September 2012, from 1,440 to 1,469, while utilised capacity rose by 4 per cent, from 1,045 to 1,088 transponders. At 30 September 2013, the group satellite fleet had a utilisation (fill) rate of 74.1 per cent.