Declining Terminal Sales Harm Thaicom Revenue

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Thaicom of Thailand on Feb. 22 reported a 1.7 percent decline in revenue for 2009 compared with 2008 as a sharp drop in sales of Ipstar broadband satellite terminals offset increased Ipstar service revenue and a slight uptick in conventional satellite revenue.

Bangkok-based Thaicom said it expected to begin Ipstar service in India and Taiwan this year following the receipt of long-sought operating licenses, completing Ipstar’s intended 14-nation coverage area. The company did not specify what obstacles remain to getting landing rights in these nations. Thaicom said in mid-2009 that it had sold several thousand Ipstar terminals in India in preparation for services to start later that year.

Thaicom divides its satellite business into two segments: conventional satellite services from the Thaicom satellites, and Ipstar-related user-terminal and service revenue. The combined revenue from both segments in 2009 was 4.506 billion Thai baht, or $134.7 million at year-end exchange rates.

With new broadcasters signing up for Thaicom capacity, the conventional satellite business in 2009 grew 1.6 percent, to 2.34 billion baht. Thaicom retired the Thaicom 1A satellite in late 2009 and said some of the customers on that satellite transferred to Vietnam’s Vinasat spacecraft.

With the retirement of Thaicom 1A, Thaicom operates the Thaicom 2 and Thaicom 5 satellites.

The Ipstar services are provided via a dedicated Thaicom satellite dubbed Thaicom 4 or Ipstar.

Thaicom had entered the bidding to purchase the ProtoStar-1 satellite owned by the former ProtoStar Ltd. in a mid-2009 auction that was won by Intelsat of Washington and Bermuda. The Thaicom 2 satellite, launched in 1994 with a 15-year contractual service life, is nearing retirement as well.

The Ipstar consumer broadband satellite picture was mixed in 2009, Thaicom said. Sales of Ipstar user terminals fell by 28 percent, to 986 million baht. Thaicom said its Ipstar business model was gradually moving away from terminal sales to concentrate on the sale of bandwidth. In 2009, Ipstar service revenue rose by 29.7 percent, to 1.18 billion baht. Helped by government subsidies to encourage broadband access in rural areas, the company saw increased revenue from Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia and China.