Hispasat’s Profit Up 50 Percent

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PARIS — Spanish satellite fleet operator Hispasat on July 14 reported a 50.3 percent increase in net profit for 2009 and said its results validate the company’s strategy of expanding into the Americas.

Madrid-based Hispasat, which operates four satellites and has three more on order — including the Amazonas 3 to reinforce its trans-Atlantic service offering — also said it has reduced its debt even as it increased its dividend to shareholders.

Hispasat reported 2009 revenue of 150.8 million euros, equivalent to $216.1 million at end-of-2009 exchange rates and an increase of 9.7 percent over 2008.

EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was 77.4 percent of revenue, down from 80.1 percent a year earlier. But Hispasat said in a July 14 statement that when revenue from short-term leases using third-party satellite capacity is removed from the 2009 results, the EBITDA margin is 80.6 percent, among the highest in the industry.

Net profit was 70.6 million euros. Hispasat said it would distribute a record 12.2 million euros in dividends to its shareholders, led by Abertis Telecom of Spain and Eutelsat, the Paris-based satellite fleet operator. Both Eutelsat and Abertis at one point harbored ambitions to buy a majority stake in Hispasat but were rebuffed by the Spanish government.

Despite the dividend payouts and a sizable capital spending program, Hispasat said it reduced its bank debt in 2009 by 34.7 million euros. As of Dec. 31, the company’s net debt stood at 1.8 times its EBITDA.

Hispasat President Petra Mateos said the company’s substantial growth in recent years — revenue has grown by 56 percent since 2004, and EBITDA has doubled — proves that the expansion into the Americas with the Amazonas satellites at 61 degrees west was justified.

Amazonas 2, launched in October 2009, entered operations in February. Amazonas 3, recently ordered from Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., is scheduled for launch into the 61 degree slot by early 2013. Amazonas 1, launched in 2004, has a leak in its fuel-supply system and is likely to be retired by 2014.

Hispasat’s original 30 degrees west orbital position, where the Hispasat 1C and Hispasat 1D satellites are located, remains the company’s chief breadwinner, accounting for two-thirds of total revenue in 2009. This slot serves mainly Europe and North Africa. Hispasat 1E, with 53 Ku-band transponders, also under construction by Space Systems/Loral, is scheduled for launch into the 30 degree slot aboard a European Ariane 5 ECA rocket late this year or early in 2011.

The 61 degrees west position, which serves the Americas, accounted for the remaining one-third of revenue.

Hispasat AG-1, with a mixed Ku- and Ka-band payload and part of a technology development program at the European Space Agency, is under construction by OHB Technology of Germany and scheduled for launch in 2012 to an as-yet-unannounced orbital slot.