Anik G1, Short-term Nimiq Lease Drive Growth for Telesat

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Telesat of Canada on Oct. 31 reported higher revenue and profit for the three months ending Sept. 30, saying its new Latin America-focused Anik G1 and the short-term lease of an older Nimiq spacecraft to an unidentified customer drove the growth.

Ottawa-based Telesat said its Anik G1 satellite, which entered operations at 107.3 degrees west in May, had already about sold out its Ku-band capacity for Latin America. The satellite also carries a C-band payload, for which capacity remains unsold; and an X-band payload already leased, for the full 15-year service life of Anik G1, to Astrium Services of Europe to market to allied militaries.

In addition to the success of Anik G1, which is entering the Latin American market at a time of high demand and in advance of multiple other satellites planned over the region, Telesat benefited from the lease of an older Nimiq satellite in the three months ending Sept. 30.

In a conference call with investors, Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg declined to identify the customer, but said the short-term lease, which has now ended, resulted in a payment equivalent to between 1 and 2 percent of Telesat’s total 2013 revenue. That would be about 13 million Canadian dollars ($12.6 million).

Goldberg said a similar opportunity is likely to occur in early 2014. He did not say whether it would concern the same operator or someone else. He said the revenue opportunity was of about the same size.

Satellite trackers show Telesat’s Nimiq 1 satellite as having remained stable at 44.5 degrees east longitude during the three months ending Sept. 30. Telesat in the past has come to the aid of fleet operator Arabsat of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to protect Arabsat’s access to orbital positions when Arabsat was unable to fill them on its own.

Nimiq 2 has been on the move, from its original home at 91.1 degrees west to 72.5 degrees west, a slot reserved by Telesat; and then to 39 degrees east in October, next door to HellasSat-2, owned by the Greek HellasSat operator, which has been purchased by Arabsat.

Goldberg said that in addition to providing services for another operator, Telesat has been using its older spacecraft “to obtain rights to other orbital locations.”

International frequency regulations, which been tightened in recent years, now require satellite owners that have registered satellites at a given location to station spacecraft at that location for at least three months before they can declare they have satisfied “bringing into use” requirements. After three months, the orbital position is considered reserved even if the satellite moves on.

Telesat’s two owners, Canadian pension fund PSP and Loral Space and Communications of New York, have scouted opportunities to sell Telesat in the past and are not viewed by the industry as long-term shareholders.

Telesat has 14 satellites in orbit and one on order, plus the use of the Canadian portion of the Ka-band capacity on the ViaSat-1 broadband satellite. Its North American fleet is 90 percent occupied, and its international fleet is 80 percent full. From these fill rates, only modest revenue growth can be expected.

Meanwhile, Telesat is generating cash, paying down its debt and waiting for its owners to determine what to do next, industry officials said.

For the three months ending Sept. 30, the company reported revenue of 237.6 million Canadian dollars, up 8 percent from the same period a year ago. EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was 81 percent of revenue, up from 80 percent a year ago.

The North American fleet was responsible for 78 percent of the revenue reported in the three months ending Sept. 30. Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounted for 12 percent, Latin America 8 percent and Asia, 2 percent.

Canadian television broadcaster Bell Canada returned the Nimiq 1 satellite to Telesat in late 2012. The Nimiq 2, also leased by Bell, was returned earlier this year when solar-array anomalies rendered it no longer useful to Bell as an in-orbit backup.

Goldberg said Bell’s returning the spacecraft to Telesat, which was accompanied by modest fees paid to the operator, will not have a large negative effect on Telesat revenue. Bell’s lease had already passed the point at which its payments to Telesat had fallen to 25 percent of their former level, as per the long-term contract between the two companies.

 

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