Globalstar Sees ‘Coming-out Year’ with Voice Subscription Growth

by

PARIS — Mobile satellite services provider Globalstar on March 14 said it expects to renegotiate $72 million in bonds that are payable as of April 1 and said the company is already seeing increased voice use of its network with the successful launch of its second-generation satellites.

With large financial demands dead ahead, Globalstar Chief Executive Jay Monroe elected to use a March 14 conference call with investors to demonstrate the quality of Globalstar’s new service by conducting the entire prepared-remarks section of the call over the Globalstar network. Monroe did not announce that fact until the question-and-answer session, when the company reverted to land lines.

Monroe, who has put a substantial portion of his family’s fortune into the billion-dollar second-generation Globalstar satellite constellation, said 2013 will be “the coming-out year for Globalstar” as voice subscribers who abandoned the service starting in 2007 because of satellite defects return with the new satellites in orbit.

Monroe said Globalstar’s airtime charges are often one-quarter the rates charged by its competition, with Globalstar handsets costing half the competition’s hardware.

Globalstar’s current second-generation constellation consists of 24 satellites in low Earth orbit. The fourth and final launch of these spacecraft occurred Feb. 6, when a Russian Soyuz rocket operated by Europe’s Arianespace consortium placed the final six satellites into orbit.

Monroe said two of these six satellites were placed into service in early March, with the four remaining satellites to follow in the coming months.

With the immediacy of Globalstar’s financial challenges, the company is not focusing on exercising an option with prime contractor Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy for six more spacecraft. Globalstar’s current constellation is 48 satellites. The company and its prime contractor have said the second-generation system could perform the same tasks with just 30 satellites.

Covington, La.-based Globalstar said it has been negotiating with the holders of $72 million in bonds payable April 1 for months. The company said it is confident that negotiations will conclude within a couple of weeks with a satisfactory extension of the payment date.

Globalstar is also negotiating with the French export-credit agency, Coface, to substantially modify the terms and conditions of the Coface bank guarantee. Among other conditions, Globalstar wants to delay the date at which it begins repaying the Coface loan beyond June 1.

Globalstar Senior Finance Director Tim Taylor said the company had about $90 million in cash as of Dec. 31, although much of it carries restrictions on its use.

So far this year, Globalstar has spent $8.6 million to pay Arianespace for the launch service and made a $9 million payment on its launch insurance coverage. It will need $30 million to upgrade its ground network this year and has $32 million in bonds coming due in June and December. In addition, the company will owe $17 million this year in interest on the Coface-backed loan, Taylor said.

Globalstar Chief Accounting Officer Rebecca Clary said the company continues to explore multiple avenues to secure the financing it will need this year, including a relaxation of the bond and loan terms to stretch out payments.

Clary said that with Globalstar’s second-generation satellites now proving their value, the company has begun to increase rates for voice subscribers, a process that will take several months but should result in higher per-subscriber revenue starting in the second half of this year.

The new rate plans start at $25 per month, compared with the $17.42 in average duplex subscriber revenue in 2012.

Globalstar reported total 2012 revenue of $76.3 million, up 4.8 percent from 2011. Duplex voice revenue, which is the key to future growth, totaled $18.4 million in 2012, down 7 percent from 2011.

Adjusted EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, for 2012 was $9.8 million, versus a loss of $6.4 million for all of 2011.