Globalstar To Set Aside Cash for New Satellite Constellation

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  Space News Business

Globalstar To Set Aside Cash for New Satellite Constellation

By PETER B. de SELDING
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 12 December 2006
02:34 pm ET


PARIS — Globalstar Inc. is obliged to establish, by Dec. 12, an escrow account in which a permanent cash reserve is kept as a condition of its contract with Alcatel Alenia Space for the construction of 48 new Globalstar mobile-telephone satellites, Globalstar said in a Dec. 5 filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The escrow account must be kept at a level equivalent to the two next quarterly payments Globalstar is scheduled to make under the contract, whose maximum total value is 661 million euros ($882 million).

The initial deposit into the account will be 40 million euros. Quarterly payments will continue through 2013. Globalstar may cancel the contract at any time, but will forfeit its next two quarterly payments if it does.

The contract, signed Nov. 30 and announced Dec. 4, calls for Alcatel Alenia Space to deliver the first second-generation Globalstar satellite, a proto-flight model, in mid-2009, to be followed immediately by 24 satellites.

The remaining 23 satellites needed for the constellation will be delivered at a schedule continuing through 2013. Alcatel Alenia Space President Pascale Sourisse said that for the satellite manufacturer, it will be more cost effective to produce the satellites at a relatively high rate, and all at once.

Milpitas, Calif.-based Globalstar and Alcatel Alenia Space have agreed that the contract’s value may be reduced by 28 million euros if Globalstar agrees to take delivery at an accelerated rate, Globalstar Chief Executive Jay Monroe said in a Dec. 1 interview.

In its SEC statement, Globalstar said “all of the satellites could be delivered as early as the third quarter of 2010” if the company elects to ask Alcatel Alenia Space to work at full speed.

Included in the 661 million euros price is a payment of 41 million euros that Alcatel Alenia Space will receive in return for launch and mission support.

Subtracting the launch-support fee and the payment for a stretched-out delivery, Alcatel Alenia will be delivering each Globalstar satellite for an average of 12.33 million euros .

“Our challenge will be to reduce the per-unit costs of production,” Sourisse said. Alcatel Alenia Space’s production facility outside Rome, which was built to assemble and test the first-generation Globalstar satellites, will perform that function under the new contract.

The company’s Toulouse, France, facility will produce the electronics payloads, with Alcatel’s Cannes, France, site building the satellite skeletal structures, or platforms.

Each Globalstar satellite is expected to weigh 700 kilograms at launch and to operate in low Earth orbit for 15 years. The first-generation Globalstar spacecraft weighed about 450 kilograms and had a contracted seven-year operational lifetime.

Monroe said the increased operational life, which will permit Globalstar to forgo replacement satellites until 2025, was key to the decision to launch a low-orbiting constellation instead of a simpler network of three large satellites in geostationary orbit.

Globalstar officials have estimated that they will need to spend an average of $10 million to launch and insure each second-generation Globalstar. Monroe said the company is examining several launch options, from vehicles that could launch just one or two satellites at a time to bigger rockets that could carry 10 Globalstar satellites on a single launch.

Staggering the satellites’ delivery and launch will permit Globalstar to keep its annual capital expenditure relatively low. The company also will upgrade its global ground network gradually to provide compatibility with the second-generation Globalstar constellation’s enhanced capabilities.

Monroe insisted that the ground-network upgrade will not be overly expensive. “We have the antennas in place and for us the upgrade is not radical,” Monroe said. “We are certainly not talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Sourisse said Alcatel Alenia Space will not be making an equity investment in Globalstar as part of the contract and will not be providing vendor financing. The contract’s terms and conditions, Sourisse said, are “fairly standard.”

But Alcatel Alenia Space does have a financial stake in Globalstar’s success, even if it is not equity ownership. According to the contract, Globalstar will pay Alcatel Alenia Space a bonus of $75 million if Globalstar’s cumulative EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, exceeds certain projections, according to Globalstar’s SEC statement. The satellites also will need to be delivered on schedule, and to function as designed, for the bonus to be paid.