PARIS — The U.S. bankruptcy court handling the sale of satellite operator ProtoStar Ltd.’s assets on Dec. 10 rejected a proposed deal between ProtoStar and prospective buyer SES, clearing the way for a wide-open Dec. 16 auction of the in-orbit ProtoStar 2 telecommunications satellite.
SES is likely to confront at least one other serious bidder at the auction — Asiasat of Hong Kong — and may also face a bid from satellite fleet operator Intelsat, industry officials said.
The Delaware Bankruptcy Court refused to accept ProtoStar’s proposed arrangement with SES under which SES agreed, in advance of the auction, to pay $185 million in cash for ProtoStar 2 on condition that it receive $6.3 million in compensation in the event it was outbid. That meant SES was assured of taking ownership of ProtoStar 2 unless another bidder was willing to pay more than $191.3 million for the satellite.
Industry officials said the decision means ProtoStar 2 ultimately could sell for less than $185 million, depending on how badly Asiasat wants the spacecraft, a Boeing 601HP model launched in May and stationed at 107.7 degrees east longitude in geostationary orbit. It carries 27 Ku-band transponders and 13 S-band transponders. The S-band capacity is leased to Indostar and Indovision of Indonesia.
SES and Asiasat both have orbital slots nearby and could move ProtoStar 2 to these positions without losing the Indonesian S-band business.
Washington- and Bermuda-based Intelsat does not have an active orbital position in the neighborhood, but its representatives nonetheless have been active in the ProtoStar 2 preauction proceedings and attended the Dec. 10 hearing as well, according to bankruptcy court records of the meeting.
Aside from SES, Asiasat and Intelsat, no other satellite operators or prospective buyers appeared at the court hearing, according to the list of attendees. Officials from all three companies declined Dec. 11 to discuss their strategies for ProtoStar 2.
Intelsat won the ProtoStar 1 satellite at auction in late October, paying $210 million in cash. Intelsat plans to move the satellite, now called Intelsat 25, to 31.5 degrees west, where its C-band payload will provide communications links between Africa and the United States. The Ku-band payload will be used for a beam over West Africa, according to Intelsat.