Rivada wins legal victory
September 22, 2023
By Chris Forrester
Rivada Space Networks, based in Munich, has been facing something of a challenge lately from China and the threat from what are described as “hostile” interests over the frequencies formerly used by Kleo Connect and which Rivada is lawfully using for its mega-constellation of a total 600 satellites.
Rivada has an order with Terran Orbital for an initial 300 satellites and a follow-on option for another 300. Its fleet is promising extremely fast connectivity with laser links to offer an ultra-secure and unique network called the OuterNet.
The German government has decisively prohibited the attempt of a hostile takeover of the German satellite company Kleo Connect GmbH (Munich-based) by its Chinese state-owned majority shareholders Shanghai Spacecom Satellite Technology (SSST). SSST and CED (a Chinese-owned Liechtenstein entity) together own around 53 per cent of Kleo; Rivada and its partner eightyLEO own 47 per cent.
Rivada’s statement said: “Rivada welcomes this decision of the German federal government, which makes clear that the Chinese investors in Kleo have no right to assume full control of the company. The Federal Government of Germany has formally closed off the avenue of Beijing’s long running lawfare campaign against Rivada and put an end to SSST’s unlawful attempts to force out Rivada and Kleo’s German founders and attack the transfer of spectrum filings to Rivada.”
“Berlin is to be commended for seeing very clearly what was at stake in this matter, and its findings are relevant far beyond the issue of SSST’s attempted seizure of Kleo via an illegal share redemption. Its report makes clear the stakes involved in the battle over this satellite constellation, and the importance of keeping in trustworthy hands,” Rivada continued.
The company’s statement added that the obstruction by the Chinese investors has rendered Kleo dysfunctional, leaderless, and without a clear path forward. “Kleo has no continuing connection to the satellite constellation now being built by Rivada; it has no access to any filings and no right to the ITU filings now assigned to Rivada. Rivada will launch its constellation regardless of what ultimately happens to Kleo. Our offer to redeem the other investors’ shares in the company remains outstanding.”
Declan Ganley, CEO and Chairman of Rivada, in an exclusive interview, said: “With the German decision, there’s no longer any ‘bleeding edge’ worries over legal issues with regards to our rights. We can turn the page on these hostile attempts and focus all our energy on our business and the manufacturing and launch of our fleet. And it is progressing well. Terran will be producing our satellites in a highly automated process. This is a major shift from traditional production models and will make the future of space technology even more exciting.”
Asked as to whether the sales effort was now bearing fruit, Ganley said Rivada’s sales team delivers “billions of dollars pipeline of work”. He added that the calibre of future customers is truly impressive, noting: “The pipeline is naturally at the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) stage and has to translate into fully obligated contracts. But we have very clear indicators of the market’s appetite and the interest in our unique business offer.”
Ganley didn’t resist being asked about an IPO down the line a little, commenting: “If it happens, we will want to see the market conditions to be better than they are today, and when it makes sense for our shareholders and investors, we will consider it. We are well financed, and I am glad we are not having to face that question right now today. Prudence and careful management are the name of the game today.”
Rivada recently won an ITU ‘waiver’ for its launch timetable which originally required 10 per cent of the fleet to be launched this year. The ITU permission means that Rivada can now proceed to its second deployment milestones of placing 144 satellites (plus six in-orbit spares) by June 2026 and 144 satellites (plus six in-orbit spares) by September 2026.
Its first satellites will roll down Terran’s production line in 2024. “We’re well on track,” Ganley said.