Satellite-fleet operator New Skies Satellites, entering what is likely its final quarter as an independent company before being purchased by Global, reported record revenue and gross-profit margins for 2005. The company also said government customers now account for one-third of its total sales.
The Hague, Netherlands-based company, which has five satellites in orbit and one under construction, said transponder-lease prices remain stable as a whole and that growth in its business has been particularly strong in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and India.
SES Global of Luxembourg is purchasing New Skies for $1.1 billion in a deal that has faced no U.S. or European regulatory opposition and is expected to close by June. New Skies will become a separate division of SES, focusing on markets outside North America and Europe.
New Skies reported March 1 a net loss of $1.4 million on revenues of $240.5 million for 2005. The revenue figure represented a 14-percent increase over 2004. The net loss for 2005 was down from $6.3 million in 2004.
Adjusted EBITDA — earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — totaled $157.7 million, or 66 percent of adjusted revenues, compared to 57 percent a year earlier.
New Skies’ five satellites were 64 percent filled as of Dec. 31, 2005, up from 55 percent a year earlier mainly on the strength of the NSS-6 satellite covering the Middle East, India and Central Asia; and the NSS-5 satellite over the Pacific Ocean, which in 2005 received unexpected business fromwhen that company’s IS-804 satellite failed in January.
New Skies Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg said the company is approaching the limit of its capacity in certain markets — one reason why the large NSS-8 satellite under construction by Boeing Satellite Systems International is eagerly awaited. Goldberg said the NSS-8 is currently scheduled for launch in November.
In one of the most customer-favorable contracts ever recorded in the industry, New Skies in 2005 received a $168 million refund from Boeing for NSS-8 in exchange for not exercising its right to terminate the contract for late delivery.
New Skies will be paying Boeing an annual sum over the life of NSS-8, and it will be Boeing’s job, not New Skies’, to insure the spacecraft in orbit.
The deal relieves New Skies of a large capital expenditure. New Skies Chief Financial Officer Andrew Browne said in a March 1 conference call with investors that the company’s total capital spending in 2005 was $6.7 million, and that in 2006 it will be between $5 million and $7 million.
The Boeing payment helped New Skies reduce its debt in 2005 by $306 million, to $438.6 million, or about 2.8 times EBITDA.
NSS plans to move its NSS-703 satellite, currently at 57 degrees east longitude with beams covering Europe, Central and South Asia, East Asia, Africa and Western Australia. The company has not announced where the satellite will be relocated.
At the end of 2005, New Skies generated 41 percent of its revenues for services in North America, 24 percent from India, the Middle East and Africa, 18 percent from Europe, 10 percent from Latin America and 7 percent from the Asia-Pacific.
Coverage over India, the Middle East and Africa has been the company’s fastest-growing segment. New Skies is one of the rare non-Indian satellite operators to have established a market base for direct-broadcast television distribution in India — a market niche that new owner SES Global hope to grow.
The Middle Eastern and Central Asian coverage also has helped New Skies grow its government business. Goldberg said government customers, who typically book capacity in one-year contracts, represented a steady growth market throughout the year and now account for “roughly one-third of our total revenues.”
Government customers typically pay more per megahertz of satellite capacity because of the short duration of their contracts. Relying heavily on this business has put downward pressure on New Skies’ backlog, which at the end of the year was $502 million, down 3 percent from a year earlier.
New Skies’ business is 52 percent data distribution, 29 percent video, 14 percent Internet access and 5 percent voice.
Goldberg said new business booked by New Skies in the last three months of 2005 was sold for an average of $1.5 million per 36-megahertz equivalent of capacity, up from $1.2 million a year ago. The average transponder under lease on all of New Skies’ fleet is generating revenues of $1.2 million, a figure that has not changed for two years.
Goldberg said he expects prices to remain stable in 2006.