PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat announced June 19 it is purchasing the in-orbit GE-23 telecommunications satellite from GE Capital for $228 million in cash.

In a conference call with investors, Paris-based Eutelsat said the satellite, launched in 2005, generates some $50 million a year in revenue. Eutelsat Deputy Chief Executive Michel Azibert said GE-23’s 20 Ku-band and 18 C-band transponders were about 80 percent occupied, and that the satellite had 8.5 years of remaining service life.

Eutelsat Chief Executive Michel de Rosen said GE-23, located at 172 degrees east longitude over the Pacific Ocean, will help bolster Eutelsat’s service offer in a region that is slated to be the focus of higher interest by the U.S. Defense Department.

“In the Far East, up to now, we have been a marginal player,” de Rosen said. “Recently we gave up on one [acquisition] opportunity because it was simply too expensive. … The trend in the region is positive. Recently we have been told by our customer in Washington that they plan to grow quite a lot in that part of the world, the Asia-Pacific.”

Eutelsat already does a thriving business with the U.S. Defense Department leasing satellite bandwidth over the Middle East. With U.S. defense authorities saying the Pacific Command will be a higher priority in the coming years, Eutelsat wants to be there for the expected demand surge.

In addition to the U.S. military business it could generate, GE-23 offers Eutelsat an entry into the growing market to provide broadband links to maritime markets. These markets already account for a disproportionate share of GE-23’s revenue, Azibert said.

Eutelsat is already expanding in the Asia-Pacific with the planned launch late this year of the Eutelsat 70B satellite into the 70.5 degrees east slot now occupied by the much smaller Eutelsat 70A.



Panasonic Avionics Leases Telesat Capacity for In-flight Service

Peter B. de Selding was the Paris bureau chief for SpaceNews.