Inmarsat Seeks Ex-Im Backing for Satellite Deal

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PONTE VEDRA, Fla. — Inmarsat is seeking U.S. Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank backing for a financial package valued at about $500 million to cover the London-based company’s three-satellite contract with Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems, Inmarsat Chief Executive Andrew Sukawaty said Aug. 6.

In an interview, Sukawaty said he expects negotiations with the export-credit agency to conclude one way or another by the end of the year. He reiterated that Inmarsat, which provides mobile satellite services worldwide, has access to sufficient capital for the $1.2 billion Global Xpress project without Export-Import Bank support.

Boeing will deliver the first of three 702HP Ka-band satellites being built for Inmarsat in 36 months, with the other two to be ready at six-month intervals after that, Boeing officials said Aug. 6.

Boeing officials declined to disclose the throughput of the satellites but said each will provide 12 kilowatts of power at the end of its 15-year life. Unlike the Boeing-built Spaceway 3 Ka-band broadband satellite operated by Hughes Communications of Germantown, Md., the three Inmarsat satellites will be so-called bent-pipe designs that do include on-board processing.

Each satellite will have 89 fixed spot beams and weigh about 6,000 kilograms at launch.

Boeing will be leveraging its work providing the U.S. Air Force Wideband Global Satcom spacecraft as it builds the Inmarsat Global Xpress satellites, said Craig R. Cooning, general manager of Boeing Defense and Intelligence Systems of El Segundo, Calif.

Three WideBand Global Satcom satellites are in orbit, with three more in production. In a conference call with reporters, Cooning said more than 20 702HP satellite platforms of the kind to be used by Inmarsat are already in orbit.

Sukawaty said Inmarsat is negotiating with four companies vying to provide the Global Xpress ground network and expects to select a winner in the coming weeks. A launch-service provider also has yet to be selected.

Stephen T. O’Neill, president of Boeing Satellite Systems International, said Boeing would be creating a new division to sell Inmarsat Global Xpress capacity, plus capacity provided by Inmarsat’s current L-band satellites.

Boeing has agreed to purchase 10 percent of the Global Xpress satellite capacity for the first five years of the system’s operations, or through 2018 under the current schedule.

Sukawaty said Boeing’s commitment will provide Inmarsat with at least 10 percent of the system’s revenue for each of the first five years. By the end of the fifth year, Global Xpress should be generating $500 million in revenue, according to Inmarsat forecasts.

O’Neill said Inmarsat has an option to order a fourth and fifth Global Xpress satellite under the contract signed Aug. 5. He said Boeing has the option of extending its service-distribution role with Inmarsat beyond five years.