Telesat prepares shareholder payday, outlines 117-satellite constellation

by

PARIS — Canadian satellite fleet operator Telesat expects to raise more than $3 billion in several transactions in the coming weeks to payoff existing debt and to make a $400 million cash distribution to shareholders still at loggerheads over a Telesat IPO.

Ottawa-based Telesat said it expects to close on Nov. 17 an offering of $500 million in notes due in 2024 and carrying an interest rate of 8.875 percent.

The company also announced a new credit facility including a term loan of $2.43 billion, and a revolving credit line of $200 million. These funds are to be used to redeem $900 million in debt due in May of next year, and to fund the distribution to shareholders.

Telesat is one of the world’s top five commercial satellite operators when measured by revenue, with a fleet of 15 satellites, plus two more on order. The company is also launching in 2017 two small low-orbiting spacecraft to secure frequencies, and retire technical risks, associated with a global Ka-band constellation of satellites for internet connectivity.

A low-orbit constellation of at least 117 Ka-band satellites

Telesat is one of several companies planning internet constellations. How such a constellation, likely to cost several billion dollars, would be financed is unclear as the company’s two owners appear to disagree on a strategy.

Telesat’s low-Earth-orbit constellation was disclosed on Nov. 15 in a filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the filing, Telesat said its system would be comprised of at least 117 satellites in two orbits. A polar orbit, inclined at 99.5 degrees relative to the equator, would use at least 12 satellites in each of six orbital planes would operate at 1,000 kilometers in altitude.

The second, inclined orbit, 37.4 degrees relative to the equator at 1,248 kilometers in altitude, would include 45 satellites spread over five orbital planes.

In its FCC filing, Telesat stresses that it designed its combined polar-/inclined-orbit system, for which a patent is pending, with U.S. military users in mind. The orbital architecture also appears to be in line with the Canadian government’s proposed — but still not funded — Enhanced Satellite Constellation Project – Polar. This system requires continuous narrowband connectivity at 65-90 degrees north latitude, and wideband connectivity between 55 and 90 degrees north.

Shareholder stalemate continues

Telesat is owned by Loral Space and Communications of New York and Canada’s PSP Investments pension fund. Loral has a 62.7 percent economic ownership of Telesat but just 32.7 percent of the voting rights.

Loral and PSP several years ago agreed in principle to sell Telesat but their price floor was viewed as too high by the interested buyers.

Since then, Loral has sought an initial public offering of stock and in July 2015 exercised its rights under the Telesat shareholder agreement, calling for an IPO of a maximum of 25 million shares.

As part of the IPO process, Loral sought PSP agreement to terminate their existing shareholder agreement to permit Loral to transform its non-voting shares into voting shares. In this Loral-backed scenario, a post-IPO Telesat would find Loral with the majority voting rights.

Telesat today seems no closer to an IPO today than it did 16 months ago. In a Nov. 4 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Loral said it “may assert certain claims against PSP, alleging violations of Loral’s rights under the Telesat agreement.”

Loral said PSP has raised similar claims and that the two companies have agreed to set aside their differences pending a near-term resolution of the larger Telesat issue.

Loral said it expects to receive, sometime before March, $250 million in cash from the $400 million Telesat shareholder distribution.