PARIS — Satellite fleet operator compared with the same period a year ago and said satellite capacity leased to governments — particularly for coverage of Central Asia and the Middle East — was its fastest-growing business line.reported a 13.4 percent increase in revenue for the three months ending March 31
Paris-based Eutelsat, which when measured by revenue is the world’s third-largest fixed satellite services fleet operator, has long benefited from having satellites at orbital slots with good coverage of Iraq, Afghanistan and the surrounding regions.
While still occupying a distant third place as a revenue source for Eutelsat after the company’s core video-broadcast business and its data and value-added applications, the government business — Eutelsat calls it “Multi-usage” — was its fastest-growing segment for the first three months of 2010.
The Multi-usage business grew 27.5 percent, to 25.1 million euros ($33.8 million at March 31 exchange rates), during the quarter.
Among the major satellite operators, Eutelsat is the most firmly implanted in the Middle East, a status the company reinforced May 11 with the announcement that it will co-invest with the government of Qatar in a Ku- and Ka-band telecommunications satellite. The new spacecraft, to be ordered by midyear and launched in late 2012, will succeed Eutelsat’s Eurobird 2 satellite at Eutelsat’s 25.5 degrees east orbital slot.
Eutelsat signed the agreement with the Supreme Council of Information and Communication Technology of Qatar, known as ictQatar, which is the Qatari telecommunications regulatory authority. Qatari officials said the total investment in the satellite is expected to be in excess of $300 million, including the satellite’s construction, launch aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket and insurance.
Eutelsat said its share of the investment in the project had been included in the company’s planned capital investment program for 2009-2012.
Eutelsat’s core television broadcast business remains the company’s dominant revenue generator. The video business grew by 10 percent, to 189.6 million euros, in the first three months of 2010. Gains came from Eutelsat’s 7 degrees west orbital slot and its relationship with Egypt’s Nilesat satellite fleet operator and with satellite television provider Noorsat of Bahrain, which has leased substantial Eutelsat capacity at 25.5 degrees east and 7 degrees west.
Video growth was helped by Eutelsat’s launch of five satellites since February 2009. The company as of March 31 was carrying 3,539 television channels on its fleet, an increase of 12.3 percent over the past 12 months. These included 120 high-definition television channels, up from 70 HDTV channels a year ago.
Eutelsat’s data and value-added services, including broadband and cellular-backhaul in nations without well-developed terrestrial links, grew by 22.8 percent in the first three months of 2010, to 52 million euros.
With total revenue of 268.3 million euros for the period, Eutelsat said it is raising its revenue forecast for the company’s fiscal year 2009-2010, which ends June 30, to more than 1.035 billion euros.