Eutelsat headquarters. Credit: Simon Lambert

TAMPA, Fla. — French satellite fleet operator Eutelsat said Nov. 15 its board has approved multi-orbit plans to combine with British broadband venture OneWeb, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.

Eutelsat’s board gave its full backing for the deal after getting the opinions of employee representatives on combining its fleet in geostationary orbit with OneWeb, which is about two-thirds into deploying its low Earth orbit constellation.

OneWeb’s main shareholders — Indian conglomerate Bharti, Japan’s Softbank, South Korea’s Hanwha, and the British government — signed a final combination agreement Nov. 14 with Eutelsat following the approval.

Publicly listed Eutelsat’s shareholders still need to approve the merger during a meeting the operator expects to hold in the second or third quarter of 2023.

Bpifrance and Fonds Stratégique de Participations, two French investment banks, and other top shareholders in Eutelsat have already voiced their support.

The all-share deal valuing OneWeb at $3.4 billion, announced in July, also hinges on international regulatory approvals that likely push the transaction’s closure well into next year.

Eutelsat chair Dominique D’Hinnin and CEO Eva Berneke are set to take on the same roles for the combined company. 

Bharti founder Sunil Bharti Mittal, currently representing OneWeb’s largest shareholder on the LEO operator’s board of directors, will be co-chair.

Bpifrance, Fonds Stratégique de Participations, Hanwha, and the British government are set to appoint one director each to the combined group’s board. 

OneWeb and Eutelsat also get to propose three and four independent directors, respectively, following the merger.

Eutelsat said last month that combining with OneWeb would nearly double its annual sales in five years to around $2 billion. 

Eutelsat sees hybrid orbit networks as key to serving future satellite connectivity needs, and OneWeb hopes to use the French operator’s resources to accelerate the commercial rollout of its constellation.

OneWeb has 462 of a planned 648 satellites in orbit after resuming its launch campaign Oct. 22 with the launch of 36 satellites onboard India’s GSLV Mark 3 rocket.

The mission marked the end of an eight-month launch hiatus for OneWeb after it terminated a contract for Soyuz launches in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

OneWeb has contracts for one more launch with India in total and three SpaceX Falcon 9 missions that it expects will be carried out within the next six months so it can provide global services.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...