Intelsat Looks To Reduce Debt with Insurance Payout

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Intelsat on Feb. 28 said it expects to pocket some of the $488 million in insurance claims it expects to receive early this year because not all of it will be needed to launch replacement capacity.

Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat is likely to be able to replace the Intelsat 27 satellite, which was destroyed Feb. 1 in a Sea Launch rocket failure, for much less than its insured value of $406 million. The satellite carried an expensive UHF-band communications payload that, while intended for U.S. or allied government use, had never found a customer.

In a conference call with investors, Intelsat Chief Executive David McGlade said a replacement for Intelsat 27 would be ordered almost immediately, in time for a launch in 2016. It will carry a C- and Ku-band payload, he said.

Intelsat’s total debt is about $16 billion, a figure that remained constant through 2012, including some $5 billion in notes that carry interest rates of more than 11 percent and are callable as of Feb. 15, Intelsat Chief Financial Officer Michael McDonnell said during the conference call. Intelsat paid $1.27 billion in interest on its debt in 2012, the company said in a Feb. 28 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

McGlade said the insurance proceeds that are not needed for replacing Intelsat 27 could be used to reduce company debt. In addition to the $406 million in insurance proceeds, Intelsat is expecting an $82 million payment to compensate for the partial loss of a solar panel on the Intelsat 19 satellite.

Launched in June, Intelsat 19 is one of three Space Systems/Loral-built satellites whose solar panels suffered explosive decompression while still under the rocket’s fairing. In its SEC filing, Intelsat said the satellite, which has been moved to 317 degrees east, is expected to function, albeit with reduced power, until early 2028, meaning it has lost almost none of its anticipated in-orbit service life.

McGlade said customers planning to use Intelsat 27 will remain on the Intelsat 805 and Galaxy 11 satellites at 55.5 degrees west, both of which have several years of remaining life. But the Intelsat 27’s mobility beam over the South Atlantic for maritime and aeronautical communications will not be immediately replaceable, and new revenue prospects for Intelsat 805, which was to have been moved to another slot following the arrival of Intelsat 27, will be delayed.

For the 12 months ending Dec. 31, Intelsat reported $2.61 billion in revenue, up slightly less than 1 percent from 2011. EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was 77 percent of revenue, compared to 78 percent in 2011.

The company placed five satellites into service in 2012 and aside from the replacement of Intelsat 27 has now about completed its fleet renewal cycle. Capital investment, mainly in new satellites, was $866 million in 2012 and will be no more than $675 million in 2013, the company said.

Intelsat registered plans for a $1.75 billion initial public stock offering in May but has not moved forward with it and no mention was made of it during the call.