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Nilesat, Saudis talk deepening cooperation

June 6, 2022

This week SpaceX will launch Nilesat 301, Egypt’s latest addition to its long-established satellite fleet. But Cairo-based Nilesat has a few domestic problems of its own to address, and as a result is talking to fellow MENA states about deepening cooperation in space and TV broadcasting.

Ahmed Anis, Chairman of the Egyptian Satellite Company, announced the start of preparations to launch the company’s latest satellite (Nilesat 301) to replace (Nilesat 201), which expires in 2028. Anis added that the current launch date of June 7th or 8th.

For many years there has been a close cooperation between Nilesat and Eutelsat; the cooperation goes back to the engineering management at Nilesat of Salah Hamza in 2014 and in recognition that Eutelsat and Nilesat were effectively sharing the 7-8 degrees West orbital spot. Each operator had its own batches of frequencies. Nilesat sold for Eutelsat and Eutelsat sold capacity for Nilesat and when added in with wholesale agreements with the likes of Globecast and Jordan’s Media City, the commercial benefits to all were obvious.

But over the past few years those relationships either ended or were curtailed. Back in October 2021, and after some 18 months of tough negotiations, a new ‘partnership’ structure was signed between Eutelsat and Nilesat for broadcast services across the Middle East. The agreement stated: “The multi-year, multi-transponder agreement represents the partial renewal of capacity by Nilesat at enhanced terms.”

However, an examination of the agreement showed that the deal was only a “partial” renewal and significantly smaller than the deal signed on September 15th 2014.

Now, it seems that Nilesat is looking for greater cooperation beyond its borders and is seeking more TV business from its Arab neighbours.

In a statement Nilesat says that negotiations are underway with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Jordan to expand and deepen strategic cooperation with major entities operating in the field of television broadcasting. Nilesat 301 has extra capacity available and includes 38 transponders compared to 26 in the current NileSat 201.

Nilesat needs the business that wider friendships might create. It has recorded net profits of just $7.27 million during Q1 of 2022, lower than $15.30 million in Q1 last year. Nilesat’s revenues settled at $25.04 million in the first three months of this year, compared to $30.95 million during the same period a year earlier, according to the unaudited financial results presented to the Cairo bourse in a disclosure on May 11th. During the January-December 2021 period, the Cairo-based operator logged net profits worth $30.75 million, lower than $34.15 million in 2020.

But, of course, the door to cooperation might not open that easily. As well as Eutelsat’s influence on the region, there’s tough competition from Arabsat and Qatar’s Es’hailSat. They are all local players but even wider competition exists from the likes of SES/YahSat, Intelsat and Asian operators.

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