Top Fixed Satellite Service Operators: SES

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Like its slightly larger Luxembourg neighbor, Intelsat, SES is at the peak of a capital spending cycle. But SES’s fleet renewal and expansion is even more extensive than Intelsat’s — a fact that SES managers often say will propel their company to growth rates beyond what the overall market, and Intelsat, can expect in the coming years.

In SES’s case, the expansion includes 12 satellites to be launched by the end of 2014, which will add 23 percent to the company’s in-orbit transponder supply as it stood at Jan. 1, 2011.

Much of this new capacity, especially the satellites that will expand SES’s reach and not just replace existing bandwidth, is over what are still called the emerging markets of South America, Africa and, especially, South Asia.

SES is one of several non-Indian operators counting on the enormous demand for television in India to overwhelm India’s still-high regulatory barriers for foreign satellite service providers.

In the Middle East, where SES has never had the wealth of orbital slots that its principal European competitor, Eutelsat, has been able to develop, SES’s joint venture with startup operator YahSat of the United Arab Emirates is debuting this year with 23 transponders on the YahSat 1A satellite now in orbit.

While SES’s current leverage is not a concern, the company is nonetheless promising its investors that the current go-go cycle of spending will slow dramatically once the dozen satellites now on order are launched.

Capital investment is expected to peak in 2011 at 920 million euros ($1.22 billion). Delayed satellite launches could still move some of this spending to 2012, but for now the company says spending next year will be 660 million euros. It will fall to 440 million euros in 2013 and then settle at about 250 million euros a year through 2016.

The grand spending total between 2010 and 2016: 3.5 billion euros, all of it meeting SES’s threshold of an internal rate of return of 10-15 percent.