exactEarth’s IPO Plans Coming into Focus 

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LIVERPOOL, England — Satellite component builder Com Dev of Canada and partner Hisdesat of Spain are selling 40-45 percent of their jointly owned exactEarth space-based maritime surveillance company in an initial stock offering expected to yield 88 million Canadian dollars ($69.2 million).

In an updated prospectus dated July 13, Cambridge, Ontario-based exactEarth described to investors how it expects to average 30 percent annual revenue growth over the next few years to capture a market that is expected to quadruple in size in the coming decade.

Established in 2009 and owned 73 percent by Com Dev and 27 percent by military satellite services provider Hisdesat of Madrid, exactEarth operates seven Automatic Identification System (AIS) payloads aboard satellites in low Earth orbit. Three more payloads are scheduled for launch by late 2016.

The system downloads data on ship identification, heading, speed and destination to 17 ground stations worldwide, a figure that will grow to 29 by mid-2016.

The company in June secured what it believes is a significant growth catapult with an agreement with Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Florida, to place 58 AIS payloads on mobile satellite services provider Iridium Communications’ next-generation Iridium Next satellites.

The Iridium constellation, scheduled for launch between late 2015 and 2017, will include 72 satellites in low Earth orbit, of which 66 will be used for the operational constellation.

Harris is managing the sale of additional space on Iridium satellites for hosted payloads. But its agreement with exactEarth is more of a partnership than a sale. Harris will have immediate access to exactEarth’s constellation to market to the U.S. government.

Once the Iridium Next satellites are in orbit, Harris will have exclusive use of the AIS capacity for U.S. government sales, with exactEarth focusing on all other markets. The companies have established revenue thresholds under which each of them benefits financially from the other’s success.

With the 58 Iridium-mounted payloads, exactEarth and Harris will be able to offer real-time data from ships equipped with AIS terminals – mandatory for larger vessels – and from smaller vessels whose signals exactEarth said can be picked up by the company’s patented AIS sensors.

It is this much larger market – and the even larger Internet-of-Things and machine-to-machine business – that exactEarth is positioning itself to capture. The maritime business is only the beginning, exactEarth said in the prospectus.

With the Iridium Next payloads, exactEarth said it will be able to track any object with a transmitter on an hourly basis at a cost to the company of 10 Canadian cents per month, with the transmitter costing 20 Canadian dollars.

The company currently tracks, on average, 165,000 ships per day. In addition to selling the data to government and corporate customers, exactEarth is building an archive of data on ship-activity history, which it expects to mine for a variety of purposes.

For the 12 months ending May 1, exactEarth reported revenue of 19.5 million Canadian dollars. It has estimated that it has the biggest market share of the current AIS market, which in 2014 was estimated to total $43 million.

The prospectus leans heavily on an analysis of the Euroconsult market-research company of Paris, which forecast that the AIS market, both satellite- and terrestrial-based, would grow to $163 million per year by 2024.

Coastal radars now collect AIS data from the transponders that large ships are required to carry. But the curvature of the Earth means that the radars lose track of ships beyond 100 kilometers. In addition, a large percent of global coastlines — 77 percent by exactEarth estimates, including 67 percent of the North American coastline — are not equipped with radars.

The exactEarth initial public offering (IPO) of stock will occur on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Shares will be priced at between 10 and 12 Canadian dollars per share.

Half the estimated proceeds of 88 million Canadian dollars, not including overallotments to underwriters, will be used by exactEarth to pay debt owed to Com Dev and Hisdesat, including an immediate payment due Harris Corp. as part of the Iridium Next partnership. The rest will be invested in the business.

The IPO’s lead underwriter is Canaccord Genuity Corp., with CIBC World Markets, GMP Securities LP and Paradigm Capital also taking part.