Satmex Acquisition Gives Eutelsat’s Latin America Presence a Jolt of Electricity

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat is buying Mexican operator Satmex for $831 million in cash plus the assumption of $311 million in Satmex debt to establish a big position in the growing Latin American market, Eutelsat announced July 31.

The transaction, which is expected to close by the end of the year, ends a long agony for Satmex, which in recent years has struggled with dissenting owners who could not agree on a growth strategy, with bankruptcy reorganization and, more recently, with the Mexican government’s arrival as a potential competitor in Satmex’s home market.

Paris-based Eutelsat said the deal values Satmex at 9.7 times its EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, for the 12 months ending last March 31.

Satmex reported $111.8 million in revenue in 2012, with an EBITDA of $89.1 million, for an EBITDA margin of nearly 80 percent.

The acquisition comes a day after Eutelsat announced it was making use of an orbital slot purchased at auction from the Brazilian government to place a new, C-, Ku- and Ka-band satellite at 65 degrees west in 2016.

Satmex operates three in-orbit satellites and has two satellites on order with Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems. The two satellites, coupled with two ordered by Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS) of Hong Kong, are part of a four-pack agreement to inaugurate Boeing’s all-electric satellite design.

The all-electric design allows satellites to launch with much less weight than satellites with conventional fuel. In the case of Satmex and ABS, the deal was contingent on being able to launch the satellites two at a time aboard Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets.

In its statement about the Satmex purchase, Eutelsat included a reference to the fact that Satmex has attractively priced options with Boeing for further all-electric 702SP spacecraft. With Eutelsat — the world’s third-largest commercial satellite fleet operator by revenue — now in the driver’s seat, exercising those options now is much more likely.

“The acquisition of Satmex, together with the order announced yesterday of our satellite for 65° West, will make Eutelsat a key operator in vibrant digital markets across Latin America,” Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen said. “With Satmex’s strategic orbital slots, state-of-the-art fleet and upcoming satellites, Eutelsat is gaining a robust platform from which to access the significant opportunities in this region. Via these two strategic steps, we are significantly upscaling our presence in Latin America to complement our footprint in fast-growing markets.”