SES Borrowing $171.5M from U.S. Ex-Im Bank for QuetzSat

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PARIS — The U.S. Export-Import Bank on Dec. 14 said it has approved a direct loan of $171.5 million to cover the construction and launch insurance of the QuetzSat telecommunications satellite under construction for satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg.

The loan represents the second time in 12 months that SES,  has tapped the export-credit market for support. The company sought and received backing from the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank’s French equivalent, Coface, in December 2009, in a $700 million package covering the construction of four SES satellites by Europe’s Astrium Satellites.

In this case, the Ex-Im Bank is supporting a contract that is well under way by Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., which SES selected in February 2009 to build QuetzSat. The satellite is scheduled for launch in 2011 and will be placed at 77 degrees west longitude, an orbital slot that an SES-owned Mexican company secured from the Mexican government. QuetzSat will be SES’s first Ex-Im-backed satellite.

SES and EchoStar of Englewood, Colo., which secures capacity for satellite-television provider Dish Network, have agreed to develop QuetzSat for EchoStar’s Dish Mexico service. EchoStar has agreed to lease the full capacity of QuetzSat — 32 Ku-band transponders — for 15 years to develop its satellite television business in the region.

QuetzSat is scheduled to be launched aboard a Russian Proton M rocket from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. While commercial Proton launches are handled by International Launch Services of Reston, Va., the U.S. link is too weak to permit the launch to be covered by the Ex-Im loan.

But the loan is covering the insurance for the QuetzSat launch, according to the Ex-Im Bank’s Dec. 14 statement.