Aon Wins Competition To Insure Intelsat Satellites

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  Space News Business

Aon Wins Competition To Insure Intelsat Satellites

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 24 October 2006
12:19 pm ET


PARIS — Intelsat has awarded Aon Space a three-year, exclusive contract to provide satellite insurance brokerage services following a hotly contested competition in which Aon was not considered a favorite.

The contract with the world’s largest commercial satellite-fleet operator followed presentations by the major space-insurance brokerages — Marsh, International Space Brokers and Willis Aerospace in addition to Aon.

Bermuda-headquartered, Washington-based Intelsat was seeking to consolidate brokerage contracts following its merger with PanAmSat and had asked the major brokers to make their cases one after the other in September.

Marsh had been PanAmSat’s broker, and International Space Brokers had done that job for Intelsat. As the incumbents, these two companies were viewed as the two front-runners.

“It’s fair to say this has created a shock in the industry,” said Michael Hewins, Aon Space global practice leader. “Most people did not consider us the favorite.” Hewins said Aon will be taking over brokerage responsibility for all Intelsat satellites.

Dianne VanBeber, Intelsat vice president for investor relations, confirmed Oct. 19 that Aon had been selected “after a rigorous and objective process. They will work with us on our current needs supporting our upcoming launch cycle. We certainly would not count out working with other firms in the future, as additional needs develop.”

VanBeber declined to say what tipped the decision in Aon’s favor. She specifically rejected the idea that Apollo Management V, L.P., one of Intelsat’s principal shareholders, was responsible for the decision. Apollo is a regular customer of Aon Space’s parent company, Aon Corp. of Chicago.

Intelsat in recent years has elected not to insure its satellites beyond the initial coverage including the launch and the first year in orbit. With a 50-satellite fleet now including the PanAmSat assets, the company is able to provide in-orbit backup in the event of a failure. Company officials have said their debt covenants do not require in-orbit coverage.

The Intelsat joint venture with JSAT Corp. of Tokyo, called Horizons, currently including two satellites, is an exception to this general rule. Horizons satellites carry in-orbit coverage.

But with insurance rates trending downward in recent months, Intelsat may be able to use its muscle as the industry’s biggest player to secure favorable in-orbit coverage, especially if, as is likely, it decides to proceed with an initial public offering of stock.

“We continuously look at the risk-management scenarios and will continue to do so,” VanBeber said. “But right now, we are not procuring in-orbit [coverage] for the majority of the fleet.”

Hewins said that it may be Aon’s outsider’s approach that helped it land the business.

“We think we offered them a fresh approach to risk management that went beyond a transaction-based approach,” Hewins said in an Oct. 20 interview. “We were able to bring a lot of resources to bear on this from Aon Corp., including resources that are not normally available to satellite clients.”

One Aon idea relates to how Intelsat might structure a policy in which it retains only part of the risk of an in-orbit loss. Other satellite-fleet operators, including SES Global of Luxembourg, have employed variants on this strategy to reduce the potential loss in the event of a sudden in-orbit failure of especially profitable satellites.

“We have developed at Aon a retention-analysis model that appealed to Intelsat,” Hewins said. “Whether they eventually adopt it or not, it demonstrated some fresh thinking that I think they appreciated.”