WASHINGTON — Kacific Broadband Satellites, a startup that ordered a geostationary satellite from Boeing despite reservations about the absence of U.S. export-credit financing, on Dec. 5 said it tapped European and Asian lenders to refinance loans used to buy the satellite.
Kacific’s first satellite, Kacific-1 launches Dec. 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Kacific-1 shares a Boeing 702-MP spacecraft bus with Japanese operator Sky Perfect JSAT, which has its own JCSAT-18 communications payloads on the other half of the satellite.
Singapore-based Kacific ordered Kacific-1 in 2017 when the U.S. Export-Import Bank lacked the minimum number of Senate-confirmed board members required to finance deals over $10 million. Boeing risked losing the order over the unavailability of export-credit financing, but Kacific stuck with the manufacturer after obtaining other short-term loans.
Kacific said it recently secured $160 million from the Philippines-based Asian Development Bank and GuarantCo, a European- and Australian-government backed infrastructure investment organization, along with other financiers.
The $160 million enables Kacific to repay the short-term loans it obtained while Ex-Im Bank’s lending window was effectively closed to satellite deals, the company said.
“The support from GuarantCo, ADB, and private investors will be pivotal in providing the long-term certainty that will allow Kacific to transition seamlessly into operational mode,” Kacific founder and chief executive Christian Patouraux said in a news release.
Kacific-1 carries 56 Ka-band spot beams designed to provide internet connectivity across more than 25 Asia-Pacific countries, most being islands where fiber optics cables are challenging to install. The satellite is designed to provide up to 60 gigabits per second of total throughput.
While the Ex-Im Bank has routinely financed satellite orders, Kacific-1 is the first satellite project in which the Asian Development Bank and GuarantCo have participated.
The Asian Development Bank is providing $50 million for Kacific-1, having concluded that the satellite will help bring internet access to rural and unserved areas in the Philippines and across Asia. As of 2015, 41% of the Philippines’s residents had internet access, compared to an average of 29 percent across the Pacific, the bank said.
GuarantCo said it is providing a $50 million “partial credit guarantee” to a private European institutional investor to support Kacific-1. The United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Australia fund GuarantCo.
In the years since the Ex-Im Bank’s charter lapsed in 2015, satellite operators have become less reliant on the agency to finance satellite orders. The House of Representatives on Nov. 15 passed the U.S. Export Finance Agency Act of 2019 (H.R.4863), a bill that would reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank for 10 years in an effort to provide long-term stability and return confidence that the agency can finance projects without interruption. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee has yet to take action on the bill.