SoftBank spearheads OneWeb loan offer to complete spectrum sale

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This article was updated April 24 at 4:07 p.m. Eastern to correct loan details. 

WASHINGTON — OneWeb is asking a bankruptcy court for permission to borrow $75 million the company says it needs to stay afloat while it attempts to sell its spectrum assets.

OneWeb’s largest creditor, SoftBank, has agreed to lead the loan, OneWeb said in an April 10 filing before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. SoftBank supplied $2 billion of the $3.4 billion in equity and debt that OneWeb raised before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. 

SoftBank’s decision to give OneWeb a cash infusion comes as the Japanese telecom giant is projecting 1.8 trillion yen ($16.7 billion) in 2019 losses for its Vision Fund. On April 13, SoftBank cited OneWeb as one of its most notable losing investments outside of that fund. OneWeb launched 74 of a target 648 small broadband satellites into low Earth orbit before filing for bankruptcy March 27. 

OneWeb’s other primary creditors — Banco Azteca, Airbus Group, Qualcomm Technologies, Institución de Banca Múltiple, and the Government of the Republic of Rwanda — can also participate in the loan. 

The initial loan, which the court will decide on April 24, would provide OneWeb with an immediate $10 million. The remaining $65 million is contingent upon OneWeb’s progress toward selling its spectrum. 

SoftBank and other debtor-in-possession loaners agreed to loan OneWeb another $15 million if it secures at least one letter of intent from a spectrum buyer — a goal OneWeb hopes to reach by May 11. 

Once OneWeb obtains a binding purchase agreement for most if not all of its spectrum rights, SoftBank and other lenders would provide a $25 million tranche. OneWeb anticipates having such an agreement by June 12. 

If OneWeb completes its spectrum sale by June 22, the lenders agreed to offer a last-lap tranche of up to $25 million to cover the cost of regulatory approvals to complete the transaction. 

OneWeb says the loan would fund it through to July 13. The company would be required, as part of the loan terms, to provide weekly updates on its spending and progress toward a sale. 

The $75 million SoftBank-led loan is contingent on OneWeb agreeing to roll up $225 million in “prepetition obligations,” effectively substituting those former obligations for debtor-in-possession financing. Those loans together could give OneWeb access to up to $300 million. 

OneWeb’s primary spectrum filings cover Ku-band frequencies for downlinks and Ka-band for uplinks for a constellation of 720 satellites in low Earth orbit. The company brought that spectrum into use with the International Telecommunication Union, and passed the agency’s 10% milestone last month when it launched 34 satellites on an Arianespace Soyuz days before filing for bankruptcy. 

OneWeb also has spectrum filings for other Ku- and Ka-band constellation architectures, plus filings for constellations based on the largely unused V- and E-bands. Of greatest value are the spectrum filings for which OneWeb has already built and launched satellites, thereby ensuring their priority status with the ITU against signal interference from other constellation hopefuls.