Apstar 7 Propels Revenue, Earnings for APT Satellite Holdings

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator APT Satellite Holdings of Hong Kong reported spectacular increases in revenue and profit for the six months ending June 30, saying its planned expansion beyond its home region is showing results.

APT’s financial performance was particularly helped by the entry into service of the Apstar 7 satellite in June 2012 at 76.5 degrees east. As of June 30, Apstar 7 was 75.1 percent full, APT said in an Aug. 26 submission to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The U.S. Defense Department’s use of Apstar 7 bandwidth for U.S. military operations in Africa caused a minor stir in Washington earlier this year because APT is majority owned by companies controlled by the China Aerospace & Technology Corp., a Chinese government enterprise.

APT operates three satellites at three orbital slots. Taken together, the three — Apstar 5, Apstar 6 and Apstar 7 — were 81 percent full as of June 30. Apstar 5, located at 138 degrees east, was 82.3 percent full. Apstar 6, at 134 degrees east, was 87.2 percent full.

APT’s revenue for the six months ending June 30 was 559.1 million Hong Kong dollars ($72.1 million), up 39 percent from the first six months of 2012 — the period immediately preceding Apstar 7’s entry into service. EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was 84.8 percent of revenue, up from 80.1 percent a year ago.

In a statement accompanying the stock exchange filing, APT said it expects the rest of 2013 to be just as robust as the first half.

“Market demand for satellite transponders in the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa will maintain a growing trend,” APT said.

As is the case with other satellite fleet operators based in East and Southeast Asia, a region crowded with commercial satellite providers, APT is looking westward for growth, with Apstar 7 as its showcase platform.

APT has changed its formula for evaluating its strength per geographic region. In the past, it used the corporate headquarters of the relevant customers to determine the location of its transponder leases.

The company is now trying to assess its per-region business by measuring transponder sales in the actual regions being covered by the satellites, regardless of where the customers are incorporated.

APT conceded in its stock market statement that this is not always precise since many transponder leases cross national borders. But as an assessment of regional strength, it more accurately reflects where the business is going.

For the six months ending June 30, APT’s sales in its home market of Hong Kong fell, but revenue from its three other regional categories was up substantially.

Revenue from Southeast Asia, at 203.2 million Hong Kong dollars, was up 32 percent from a year earlier. Revenue from mainland China, Taiwan and Macau was up 37 percent, to 139.1 million Hong Kong dollars.

The biggest increase was in APT’s “other regions” category, which grew 82 percent, to 166.3 million Hong Kong dollars. Much of this increase is due to Apstar 7, APT’s biggest satellite, which carries 28 C-band transponders and 28 Ku-band transponders. 

The C-band capacity is trained on Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia. The Ku-band capacity, which includes a steerable beam, provides bandwidth over Europe, China, the Middle East and Africa.

APT did not identify its new customers but said growth was notable in the Middle East and Africa. Other satellite operators have said Africa’s growth continues but that fiber to the African shores and a large number of satellites providing coverage inland has put downward pressure on transponder lease prices.

APT does not seem to be feeling the same pressure in Africa.