AsiaSat’s largest shareholders move to take operator private

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WASHINGTON — The two majority owners of AsiaSat have put forward a plan to privatize the satellite operator and delist it from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

CITIC Group and The Carlyle Group, operating through subsidiaries, proposed June 24 to pay 1.022 billion Hong Kong dollars ($130.8 million) to buy the 25.57 percent of shares they don’t already own. 

CITIC, Carlyle, and AsiaSat say the operator’s illiquid stock stifles AsiaSat’s ability to utilize its status as a publicly listed company to raise funds from the public equity capital market.

AsiaSat operates a fleet of six satellites, providing telecommunications services such as television broadcasting and internet connectivity across the Asia Pacific, along with parts of the Middle East, Africa and Europe. The company has for years described its core Asia-Pacific market as one defined by fierce competition, complicated by an oversupply of capacity and changing patterns among television viewers. 

AsiaSat and Bowenvale Limited, the joint venture formed by CITIC and Carlyle, said the operator may need to consider changes to its corporate strategy as well as its business model to stay competitive. Those changes could “create volatility to the Company’s financial and earnings profile,” they said. 

“The privatization of the Company will provide greater flexibility in the structuring of, possible future corporate transactions, and relieve the Company from the financial costs associated with being a publicly listed company,” AsiaSat and Bowenvale said. 

Should the privatization effort move forward, Bowenvale will pay 10.22 Hong Kong dollars for AsiaSat’s remaining shares. That price is 23.43 percent higher than where AsiaSat’s stock closed before the privatization announcement, and 70.96 percent higher than the average closing price over the last 180 trading days.

Bowenvale and AsiaSat didn’t give a timeline for the privatization, but said one would be released in a “scheme document” to shareholders as soon as possible. 

AsiaSat’s positioning to go private follows that of British fleet operator Inmarsat, who on May 10 approved a privatization plan expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.