Telesat goes public in a boost for LEO constellation funding talks
TAMPA, Fla. — Satellite operator Telesat started trading as a public company Nov. 19 in the U.S. and Canada, boosting talks with export-credit agencies about funding the rest of its $5 billion Lightspeed broadband constellation.
Ottawa-based Telesat did not raise cash in listing on Nasdaq and the Toronto Stock Exchange by merging with shareholder Loral Space & Communications, but the move should help accelerate years of discussions with debt lenders to secure the final $2 billion it needs for a network comprising nearly 300 satellites in low Earth orbit.
“I would say lenders always like to know that a company that they lend to has access to additional sources of financing,” Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg told SpaceNews in an interview.
Public companies also must operate with more transparency than private firms, adding credibility and lowering risk for lenders — although Telesat has already been holding quarterly earnings calls and making more disclosures than a typical private company because it has publicly traded debt.
“But with the public equity being listed too, there’ll be more disclosures still … that’s probably also a helpful thing for anybody lending to the company,” Goldberg noted.
Telesat is trading on both stock exchanges under the symbol TSAT.
The biggest obstacle in the way of finalizing Telesat Lightspeed’s funding is the uncertainty around the constellation’s deployment schedule, however, as its European manufacturer Thales Alenia Space runs into pandemic-related supply chain issues.
Goldberg said Telesat is still waiting to hear from Thales about the magnitude of these delays.
“Our teams are meeting on a daily basis figuring this out,” he said, adding that Thales has to “go back through their supply chain and whatnot, so it takes a little bit of time, but we’ll know shortly.”
The company does not expect any issues with Telesat Lightspeed’s International Telecommunication Union filings, but it has said it will need an extension to meet deployment commitments made with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
Without a waiver from the FCC, Telesat has to deploy 50% of Lightspeed’s satellites by Nov. 3, 2023.
Lightspeed’s manufacturing delays will not result in a “meaningful change” in cost for Telesat, Goldberg added, and potentially give it more time to optimize the network’s design.
“We’re not going to do anything major,” he said.
“The significant building blocks of the constellation are going to remain the same, and those are things like processed payloads, the phased array antennas to dynamically move our coverage around on the Earth, the inter-satellite links … but within those, there might be some optimization that we can do to get something better still.”
He expects to have clarity on Telesat’s discussions with Canada’s export-credit agency, and its counterpart in France, “in the coming months” to finalize the constellation’s financing in the near term.
The next step after completing the financing will be to “hit the big green button” on production, according to Goldberg.
He declined to discuss whether Telesat could raise money on the public equity markets if talks with the ECAs take longer than anticipated.