Protostar Satellite Auction Is Pushed Back Two Weeks

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PARIS — Newly expressed interest by potential buyers is the reason for ProtoStar Ltd.’s decision to postpone the auction of the ProtoStar 1 satellite by two weeks, to Oct. 29, industry officials said.

ProtoStar on Oct. 8 notified the Delaware Bankruptcy Court, which is handling the company’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the auction of its two satellites, that prospective bidders now have until Oct. 14 to signal their preliminary interest, with bids due on Oct. 23. The auction then would occur on Oct. 29 at the New York offices of law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP.

One industry official said ProtoStar may also decide to postpone the auction of the ProtoStar 2 satellite, scheduled for Oct. 14, depending on the level of interest. ProtoStar 2, which was launched in May, operates from 107.7 degrees east and has an S- and Ku-band payload. The Ku-band payload has had trouble coordinating its planned broadcast frequencies with satellites in the region, and notably with SES of Luxembourg. SES is viewed as the most likely winner of the ProtoStar 2 auction.

ProtoStar on Oct. 1 told the bankruptcy court that the ProtoStar 2 S-band payload, which has an anchor customer in Indonesia and does not face frequency-interference problems, had generated $3.5 million in revenue since it became operational on June 17.

Finding another market for the S-band payload would be difficult, meaning ProtoStar 2 is likely to remain at or near its current orbital position. SES’s Ku-band frequency rights mean few prospective buyers will want to contest an SES purchase, industry officials said.

ProtoStar 1, which was launched in July 2008, confronts a separate series of regulatory and frequency-coordination issues and as a result is generating no revenue from its slot at 98.35 degrees east.

For its Ku- and C-band payload to be used, ProtoStar 1 likely will need to be moved to another orbital position by its new owner. Several companies have expressed interest in ProtoStar 1, which carries 38 Ku-band and 22 C-band transponders.

In what must be an unusual event for a company in Chapter 11 proceedings, ProtoStar in September asked the court to permit the company to refund a $262,458 payment to it by Antrix Corp. of Bangalore, India, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Antrix contracted to lease 216 megahertz of capacity on ProtoStar 1 as an interim measure to meet India’s surging satellite television demand, which has exceeded the capacity of India’s domestic satellite fleet. San Francisco- and Bermuda-based ProtoStar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in July, and terminated the Antrix agreement on July 28. But an administrative error nonetheless wired the scheduled monthly payment for August.