Avanti Executives Buy Big Blocks of the Company’s Flagging Stock
PARIS — Startup satellite broadband provider Avanti Communications Group on Oct. 5 announced that Chief Executive David Williams had purchased an additional 19,400 shares in the company, whose stock has been in a tailspin in recent months, two days after Williams and other Avanti executives purchased a total of 48,360 shares.
Avanti announced lower revenue and higher losses for the year ending June 30 as it prepared for the entry into service of its first satellite, and said it has insured its second satellite at unexpectedly favorable rates.
The London-based company, whose Hylas 1 satellite was launched in November 2010 and entered commercial operations in April, also said its larger Hylas 2, set for launch in the first half of 2012, has secured $328 million in insurance coverage.
The policy includes coverage of the satellite’s launch and its first year in orbit, in addition to coverage of its insurance premium payment. Avanti said the premium, which it did not disclose, is $15 million lower than what the company expected when it prepared the Hylas 2 budget.
Avanti secured Hylas 2 backing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and France’s Coface export-credit agency in the amount of 194 million British pounds, or about $300 million. The two export-credit agencies are participating in the project because Hylas 2 is being built by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., with thelaunch consortium of Evry, France, responsible for launch services.
Avanti is positioning itself as a satellite broadband provider whose main business is not necessarily that of serving individual consumers, which is a core market targeted by competitorsof Paris and Luxembourg-based ’s Astra2Connect satellite broadband services.
Williams said during the World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris the week of Sept. 12 that “consumer broadband might be only 25 percent of our usage.” He said government and corporate customers “buy the service in larger orders, and the high orders start right away,” as compared with consumer markets where subscriber buildup can be a long process.
Williams said Avanti has seen few signs of any competitive tensions since Eutelsat’s much larger Ka-Sat satellite entered service in May.
Hylas 1, built by a joint venture of Astrium Satellites of Europe and the Indian Space Research Organisation of India, provides 3 gigahertz of capacity to up to 350,000 subscribers, with the precise number depending heavily on what data-throughput levels subscribers book.
Hylas 2 is expected to provide 8.28 gigahertz for up to 1 million subscribers. It also will expand Avanti’s reach into Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Avanti has said it is performing early design work on a Hylas 3 satellite. In its Oct. 3 statement, the company said it had already booked conditional pre-sales contracts totaling $120 million.
For the 12 months ending June 30, Avanti reported revenue of 5.5 million pounds, down 6 percent from the same period a year ago. It posted an after-tax loss of 9.7 million pounds, versus a loss of 1.93 million pounds last year.
The company, in the Oct. 3 statement, reported a cash balance at June 30 of 38.8 million pounds, up 13 percent from a year ago. During the past year, Avanti repaid what it termed “high-cost” payment-in-kind debt, leaving the company with no debt to be paid until December 2012.
Avanti is one of the few publicly traded companies whose principal business is satellite broadband. Avanti shares on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market have ridden the waves of investor hopes and fears about whether satellite broadband could take off in Europe as it has in the United States.
On Oct. 5, 2010, Avanti shares were trading at 607 British pence. As of midday Oct. 6, they were at 287 pence.
Avanti announced Oct. 5 that Williams had purchased 19,420 shares at 254.8 pence Oct. 4, a day after he had purchased 18,360 shares at 269.3 pence. As of Oct. 5, Williams owned some 1.6 million shares in Avanti, equivalent to 2 percent of the total outstanding shares.
Several other company managers, including Chairman John Brackenbury, also increased their share ownership on Oct. 3. Brackenbury’s purchase of 10,000 shares brought his share count to 390,400. Avanti Director David Bestwick purchased 20,000 shares the same day, bringing his total to 1.2 million shares, Avanti said.