Eutelsat headquarters
Eutelsat headquarters are located in Paris, France. Credit: Simon Lambert/REA

SAN DIEGO — Eutelsat has scheduled a shareholder vote Sept. 28 to get the final approval needed to take over OneWeb after clearing all regulatory hurdles for the multi-orbit merger.

The French operator of geostationary satellites is expected to complete its all-share deal for the British low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband network shortly after the meeting, if at least two-thirds of Eutelsat’s shareholders vote in favor of the transaction.

Top shareholders collectively holding 49.4% of Eutelsat as of March 31 have already voiced support for the plan, announced a year ago valuing OneWeb at $3.4 billion. OneWeb’s shareholders previously approved the merger.

Eutelsat said it had secured all relevant regulatory clearances for the deal in an Aug. 21 news release to announce the shareholder meeting, including from foreign investment authorities.

Unlike Viasat’s recent acquisition of British operator Inmarsat, which took a year and a half to complete, European regulators did not hold up the OneWeb deal to investigate concerns it could lead to higher prices for satellite services and reduced quality.

Eutelsat already owns 23% of OneWeb after gradually building up an interest in the company, part of its expansion into connectivity services to counter a declining legacy satellite TV business.

A combined fleet could use large geostationary satellites to provide more capacity to specific regions, while leveraging smaller LEO satellites for lower-latency services globally.

OneWeb recently completed the deployment of its constellation and currently has 634 satellites in LEO, including spares and a technology demonstrator for its second generation.

While OneWeb expects to begin providing full coverage from this constellation by the end of this year, the company is already working with Eutelsat on a $4 billion second-generation network slated to enter service by early 2028.

OneWeb’s first-generation satellites were built by a Florida-based joint venture the British operator shares with Europe’s Airbus. 

A successful merger would pave the way to jointly devised growth plans, including the selection of a manufacturer for OneWeb’s second generation.

It could also complicate Eutelsat’s hopes for a role in Europe’s planned 6 billion euro ($6.5 billion) multi-orbit connectivity constellation — called Infrastructure for Resilience, 

Interconnectivity and Security by Satellite (IRIS²) — which the operator is bidding for in a consortium with other larger European space players.

The British government has a stake in OneWeb after helping to rescue the venture from bankruptcy in 2020 and would retain priority voting rights following the merger.

A top European Union commissioner has warned of a potential conflict of interest, given the United Kingdom is no longer part of the European Union, although the French operator says OneWeb would be sufficiently ring-fenced if their merger does go ahead.

Eutelsat said July 28 its push into connectivity will see the company return to growth next year after annual sales declined for the seventh year in a row.

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...