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SES Going For Full Ownership Of O3b Networks

SES S.A. (Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG) is launching a capital raising to fund the acquisition of the remaining shares in O3b Networks.

As a result, SES will own 100 percent of O3b Networks, a next generation satellite operator with a constellation of 12 High Throughput Satellites (HTS) at Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) that delivers a unique, global ‘fiber in the sky’ connectivity solution with ultra-low latency.

Acquisition of 100% of O3b delivers significant benefits to SES:
•Expanding SES’s global network and solutions, by further incorporating O3b’s unique, low latency satellite constellation, which is already in operation. O3b is a strong and positive fit within SES’s thesis for building a future-proof and scalable technology solution
•Augmenting SES’s differentiated capabilities by leveraging the capabilities and features of the combined fleets to deliver the best customer offering across the data-centric verticals
•Enhancing SES’s foundations for sustainable growth with O3b’s strong outlook representing an important accelerator of long-term growth
•Accelerating commercial and financing synergies by bringing SES and O3b closer together
•Delivering attractive returns within SES’s financial framework, with the transaction generating an IRR in excess of SES’s hurdle rate, while retaining the benefits of SES’s investment grade credit status

Karim Michel Sabbagh, President and CEO, said, “Taking 100 percent control of O3b exceptionally strengthens the SES differentiation. O3b allows SES to expand its global reach and solutions, augments SES’s essential capabilities across the data-centric verticals and enhances SES’s foundations for sustainable growth.

“O3b’s MEO constellation is a key accelerator in the execution of SES’s differentiated strategy and substantially improves SES’s competitive positioning, particularly for applications where low latency is an increasingly central feature. By moving to 100 percent now, SES and O3b can immediately begin to realise important commercial and financing synergies from bringing the two businesses even closer together.

“SES and O3b will be uniquely positioned to provide customers with the optimal combination of technologies and solutions across a global GEO/MEO satellite network, allowing SES, O3b and our customers to all grow together. The transaction will also allow SES and O3b to develop a common technology and innovation roadmap.

“The transaction exceeds SES’s investment hurdle rates and will further enhance returns on SES’s existing investment in O3b. The capital raising allows SES to capture the full benefits of O3b’s fast-growing top-line and accelerate significant synergy opportunities, while re-affirming SES’s long-standing commitment to maintaining its investment grade credit status (BBB/Baa2) and progressive dividend policy.”

As announced on April 29, 2016, SES has agreed to pay USD 20 million to increase the firm’s fully diluted ownership of O3b from 49.1 to 50.5 percent. SES now intends to exercise its call option, under the purchase agreement, to acquire the remaining 49.5 percent of O3b shares for a consideration of USD 710 million, bringing SES’s aggregate equity investment in O3b to date to USD 1.0 billion (EUR 900 million). As a result, the Board of O3b will no longer evaluate an Initial Public Offering (IPO) process.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals which are expected to be completed during H2 2016, as previously foreseen. There will be no changes to the management of O3b, which has been highly successful to date in delivering the fastest growing satellite network in terms of capacity contracted.

The transaction is expected to generate returns exceeding SES’s hurdle rates for infrastructure investments and will further enhance the returns on SES’s existing investment in O3b. On completion, SES will consolidate O3b’s net debt, which is currently USD 1.2 billion with an average interest rate of 9.5 percent (including amortization of loan origination costs and commitment fees), where significant refinancing synergies are possible and outlined below.

Since starting commercial operations in September 2014, O3b has built a strong global customer base and now serves more than 40 Enterprise, Mobility and Government clients across 31 countries. To date, over 50 percent of customers have already upgraded their initial service commitments, demonstrating the attraction of O3b’s unique and ‘game-changing’ solution. As at March 31, 2016, O3b had a fully protected contract backlog of USD 350 million.

O3b has procured an additional eight satellites to accommodate rapidly-expanding demand, with four satellites expected to be launched during H1 2018, and the remaining four satellites expected to be launched in H2 2019. These procurements will increase the size of the current fleet from 12 to 20 satellites (including three satellites currently flying as in-orbit back-up). At ‘steady-state’ utilization, which is targeted to be achieved by the end of the third year of a satellite’s commercial service, the full operational constellation is expected to generate annualised revenue of between USD 32 million and USD 36 million per satellite.

O3b is expected to generate more than USD 100 million of revenue for the 12 months ended December 31, 2016, which represents nearly double the revenue recorded in the previous year. With the benefit of commercial and financing synergies, the acquisition is now expected to become free cash flow (before financing activities) and EPS accretive to SES in 2018.

As part of the IFRS purchase accounting treatment, the transaction will give rise to the recognition of a gain by SES of approximately USD 500 million relating to the remeasurement to fair value of the current non-controlling interest in O3b. The final amount will depend on the closing date of the transaction.

The combination of SES’s global geostationary (GEO) satellite network with O3b’s global MEO satellite constellation will enable SES to provide major customers in the Enterprise, Mobility and Government market verticals with an unsurpassed satellite-enabled network, complemented by a robust ground network and innovative products. SES, with 100 percent ownership of O3b, will be capable of providing an integrated and differentiated suite of solutions, which can match the optimal satellite technologies to best serve the customers’ requirements.

As a result of owning 100 percent of O3b, O3b will be able to use the benefits of SES’s investment grade credit status and have wider access to attractive sources of funding to substantially reduce O3b’s annual interest costs for its USD 1.2 billion of debt from an average of 9.5 percent per annum. In this context, around USD 300 million of the proceeds from the capital raising will be used to repay O3b’s most expensive debt facilities, leading to a reduction in annual financing costs after initially covering any repayment charges.

SES will also be in a position to further significantly reduce O3b’s financing charges and average interest rate (currently at 9.5%), as the group gradually optimizes O3b’s funding structure. SES is also considering the issuance of hybrid debt instruments as part of a process to optimize O3b’s funding structure, which could generate further interest cost savings. An offering of such instruments could be launched at any time, depending on market conditions. The size of such issuance would also be determined according to prevailing market conditions.

SES is launching a private placement to institutional investors of 39,857,600 new fiduciary depositary receipts (“FDRs”), as well as certain existing FDRs as described below (the “Private Placement”). Each FDR represents one Class A share.

The Private Placement is part of a capital increase, which will also comprise 19,928,800 Class B shares, necessary to maintain the ratio of 1:2 with the Class A shares, as provided in SES’s articles of association. These new shares will rank pari passu with the existing A-shares and B-shares.

The existing Class B shareholders (Banque et Caisse d’Epargne de l’Etat, Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement and Etat du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg) will subscribe for newly-issued Class B shares, pro rata to their existing holding of Class B shares. Class B shares have 40% of the economic rights of Class A shares. Etat du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg will subscribe for its pro rata portion of Class B shares by a combination of cash and an in-kind contribution of a number of FDRs that it currently owns (which will be sold in the Private Placement). The number of FDRs to be contributed will depend on the Private Placement price.

On a pro forma basis, SES’s end of year Net Debt to EBITDA ratio is expected to remain below 3.3 times, and the company’s BBB/Baa2 investment grade credit rating is expected to be re-affirmed by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. SES remains committed to maintaining a progressive dividend policy.

SES will use the proceeds raised to fund the total consideration of USD 730 million to increase its ownership of O3b to 100%. SES will also use around USD 300 million to repay O3b’s most expensive debt facilities, leading to a reduction in annual financing costs after initially covering any repayment charges. The balance of the proceeds is to be used for general corporate purposes.

The Private Placement will comprise 39,857,600 FDRs, as well as certain FDRs which are being contributed in kind to the Company by Etat du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg against subscription of new B shares, for a total size of approximately 40.90 million FDRs, depending on the Private Placement price.

In the context of the Private Placement, SES has agreed for the benefit of the Joint Bookrunners to a lock-up of 180 days, subject to customary exceptions. SES is preparing a Listing Prospectus for the listing of the FDRs on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and Euronext Paris, which is expected to be approved by the Commission de Surveillance du Secteur Financier (CSSF) prior to settlement of the Private Placement.

EBU steps up Eutelsat capacity


The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), a distributor of sports and news content for global broadcast and media platforms, and Eutelsat Communications have announced the signing of capacity contracts on four Eutelsat satellites. The capacity will be used to carry live broadcast signals of flagship events in the sports calendar.

Using the Eutelsat 65 West A, Eutelsat 12 West B and Eutelsat 5 West A satellites, the EBU will extend its existing and substantial footprint to new regions, notably Africa with a full-time lease for capacity.

The new leases coincide with the cornerstone renewal and expansion of capacity contracted by the EBU on the Eutelsat 7B satellite. With this new major long-term agreement Eutelsat 7B remains the core element of Eurovision’s network over Europe, the Middle East and North Africa for distribution of live images of all major sporting and news events shown by European broadcasters.

Graham Warren, Network Director at Eurovision, said of the new contracts: “Our objective has always been to provide our customers with highly reliable and innovative production and distribution services with the best possible conditions, technically, operationally and of course financially. The EBU knows it can rely on a number of satellites in Eutelsat’s fleet to ensure video distribution across the world, most notably the European continent in its larger perimeter and the African continent, which represents a promising new marketplace for Eurovision services; and in an ever growing environment for live video services, in multiple formats, from second screen to UHD.”

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