Telesat’s Earnings Up as Anik G1 Enters Service

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Satellite fleet operator Telesat’s newest satellite, Anik G1, entered service in geostationary orbit May 8, about a week after the Ottawa, Canada-based company reported a 12 percent jump in quarterly revenue.

The Space Systems/Loral-built Anik G1 satellite, launched April 15 by an International Launch Services Proton rocket, carries commercial C- and Ku-band transponders and an X-band payload for military customers.

Most of Anik 1’s Ku-band payload has been sold, for the satellite’s full 15-year life, to Canadian satellite-television provider Shaw Direct. Anik G1’s X-band payload has been sold, also for 15 years, to Astrium Services in Europe to extend to North America and the Pacific that company’s X-band reach for military customers. 

Telesat said in a May 8 press release announcing the start of commercial service that Anik G1 “will effectively double both the C-band and Ku-band transponders serving South America from this [107.3 degrees west] orbital location.”

In a May 2 conference call with investors, Telesat said that while it has not yet sold Anik G1’s C- and Ku-band capacity available for Latin America, it believes the market there continues to be robust.

Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg declined to speculate on prospects for the remaining C- and Ku-band capacity on Anik G1 beyond saying that “the pipeline looks good,” and that Telesat’s other capacity over Latin America is nearly sold out. Anik G1 doubles the amount of capacity available from that orbital slot, where Anik F1 is also stationed and will remain.

Latin America has been perhaps the world’s most dynamic regional market for satellite bandwidth in the past couple of years.

With Anik G1’s entry into service, Telesat, which is the world’s fourth-largest commercial satellite fleet operator by revenue, has 13 satellites in orbit plus the Canadian Ka-band payload on the ViaSat 1 broadband satellite owned by ViaSat Inc. of Carlsbad, Calif.

For the three months ending March 31, Telesat said revenue was up 12 percent, to $219 million Canadian dollars ($216 million), with EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, also up 12 percent and equivalent to 78 percent of revenue. The growth in revenue was mainly due to the Nimiq 6 satellite’s entry into commercial service in mid-2012.

Telesat said its North American fleet, which accounted for 82 percent of the company’s business in the quarter, was 91 percent full. The international fleet was 84 percent full. Backlog at March 31 stood at 5 billion Canadian dollars.

Telesat Chief Financial Officer Michel Cayouette said the company’s recent purchase, for about 231 million Canadian dollars, of bonds paying 12.5 percent annual interest will result in about 40 million Canadian dollars in annual interest payments.

Telesat expects to pay about 206 million Canadian dollars in debt service in 2013.

Telesat’s two owners, Canadian pension fund PSP Investments and Loral, have made it clear they would like to sell Telesat. They tried to do so in 2011, were unable to secure their minimum acceptable price and subsequently elected to pay themselves a special dividend valued at some 656 million Canadian dollars.

In 2012, PSP sought to float Telesat on the stock market, a move that Loral opposed for tax reasons. PSP agreed to abandon the effort.

Industry officials have speculated that with Nimiq 6 and Anik G1 now in orbit, and no near-term capital spending requirements, PSP and Loral may renew their search for a strategic transaction.