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OneWeb: “Prospective buyers limited”

April 1, 2020

A hard-hitting, but fundamentally accurate, report from Quilty Analytics says there are no prospects of a buyer taking control of OneWeb’s assets and moving forward with the company’s business plan and network architecture as they currently exist.

“Consequently, OneWeb’s 74 operational satellites have almost no value to a prospective buyer, except in the sense that they triggered the ITU’s first, and important, 10 percent Bring-into-Use (“BIU”) constellation deployment milestone. This creates a window of time for the buyer to hold the spectrum, either to ramp up deployment of a future constellation – or perhaps to forge an attempted strategic block,” states Quilty.

The analysts also say that OneWeb’s numerous ground-based gateways and bandwidth landing rights “hold little or no value for most buyers”.

“So, what’s left?” asks Quilty. “According to OneWeb’s bankruptcy filing, ‘OneWeb’s most significant assets are its radiofrequency spectrum authorizations (the ‘Spectrum Licenses’).’ Its Spectrum Licenses include a number of global Non-GSO filings in the Ku- and Ka-bands (as well as some in V- and E-bands). These licenses, which also nominally enable OneWeb to assert priority rights for LEO user links in the Ku-band, have been an ongoing topic of dispute between OneWeb and its competitors (including SpaceX). Undoubtedly, spectrum is valuable, but assigning value to OneWeb’s spectrum may be complicated by several factors,” says Quilty.

The report reminds readers that OneWeb has “teetered on shaky financial ground for over a year, while its business plan exhibits few strategic or comparative advantages versus its erstwhile rivals”.

“Unfortunately, the true scope of the carnage is difficult to assess at this time. OneWeb’s bankruptcy will echo through the supply chain and specifically to OneWeb Satellites (a 50/50 JV between Airbus and OneWeb), which is a separate entity, not part of the bankruptcy proceeding, but which has furloughed some of its 250+ staff. OneWeb Satellites has only one major customer (OneWeb) and an army of ~40 vendors supporting its manufacturing efforts, many of which scaled up their manufacturing capacity (capital investments, employee hiring) to support OneWeb’s requirement for 600+ satellites” says Quilty.

Quilty concludes: “Based on our initial discussions with industry stakeholders, we believe that OneWeb’s spectrum rights are saleable, but may be less valuable than generally assumed. As such, the future of OneWeb’s assets may end up being less the story of a White Knight rescue than that of a takeover by an opportunistic baron.”

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