Telesat Expects 12 Years’ Service from Balky Satellite

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PARIS — Satellite operator Telesat on Aug. 4 said its crippled Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul-2 satellite, which failed to fully deploy one of its solar panels following its May 24 launch, likely will be able to use 60 percent of its capacity and operate for 12 years in orbit despite the problem, which now appears permanent.

If those estimates hold up, the new satellite will offer 20 percent more capacity than the original Telstar 14/Estrela do Sul it is intended to replace, which itself was stricken by a similar solar array deployment anomaly in 2004.

Telesat said the new satellite will provide 50 percent more Ku-band bandwidth to Latin America than its predecessor and will double the older satellite’s capacity for maritime users.

In a conference call with investors, Telesat Chief Executive Daniel S. Goldberg said the company is still evaluating the limits of the new satellite’s power. Telesat is preparing an insurance claim but has not yet determined the exact amount it will ask of its insurers, Goldberg said.

Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul-2 carries the equivalent of 58 36-megahertz Ku-band transponders, compared to 41 on the older satellite, whose solar-array defect has forced it to use more fuel in operations and obliged Telesat to prepare for its retirement late this year. A fully functioning satellite launched in 2004 normally would be expected to continue full service until 2019.

As of June 30, the older satellite had a fill rate of about 75 percent. Its usable capacity has been estimated by Telesat at 32 transponders.

Goldberg said that given the still-strong demand for satellite bandwidth in Latin America, the larger Telstar 14R/Estrela do Sul-2 should be about three-quarters full by the end of this year.

The partial loss of the new satellite’s capacity will reduce Telesat’s ability to capture surging demand in Latin America, at least until late 2012, when Telesat’s Anik G1 satellite, which also is carrying capacity for Latin America, is scheduled for launch.

Telesat has two other satellites awaiting launch. The company has leased the Canadian capacity on the ViaSat-1 Ka-band broadband satellite, owned by ViaSat Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif., and has sold it to a Canadian consumer broadband provider for the satellite’s full 15-year life. ViaSat-1 is scheduled for launch by mid-October.

Telesat’s Nimiq 6 satellite, to be launched in early 2012, is expected to be an immediate source of revenue since all of its capacity has been leased, for its 15-year life, by satellite-television broadcaster Bell TV of Canada.

Until the new satellites are in service, Telesat expects revenue to remain stable.

For the first six months of 2011, the company reported revenue of 200 million Canadian dollars ($205 million), down 2 percent from the same period a year ago. When removing the 6 percent decline in the value of the U.S. dollar versus Canada’s currency during 2011, the revenue figure would have shown an increase of 2 percent.

Telesat’s EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, was 77 percent of revenue for the six months ending June 30, up from 75 percent a year ago.

As of June 30, the company’s backlog stood at 5.4 billion Canadian dollars. Its North American satellites, which provide more than 80 percent of company revenue, were 89 percent filled, while its international satellites were 79 percent full.

Meanwhile, Telesat and its majority owner, Loral Space and Communications of New York, announced Aug. 4 that they had terminated a process to invite potential buyers to discuss a takeover of Telesat after more than a year of discussions with several parties. No acceptable bids were made, Telesat and Loral said.

Goldberg said Telesat, which in the past has floated the idea of a stock market introduction, is leaning toward a dividend recapitalization as a way of providing cash to its shareholders — Loral and Canadian pension fund PSP Investments.

Under a dividend recapitalization, Telesat would likely incur new debt that would be used to pay a special dividend to Loral and PSP.