Viasat-Inmarsat deal remains on track

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PARIS — Viasat’s acquisition of Inmarsat is moving ahead, company executives said, despite ongoing work to secure approval from the British government as well as a drop in share price that has cut a billion dollars from the value of the deal.

Viasat announced Nov. 8 it was acquiring Inmarsat in a deal valued at $7.3 billion in cash, stock and assumption of debt. The companies said at the time that they expected the transaction to close in the second half of 2022, pending regulatory approvals.

In a Dec. 14 appearance by video at Euroconsult’s World Satellite Business Week here, Rajeev Suri, chief executive of Inmarsat, stuck to that schedule. “We remain on course for a successful deal close in the second half of next year,” he said.

The deal, he said, is not threatened by the sharp decline in the value of the stock. At the time of the announcement, the Viasat stock included in the transaction was worth $3.1 billion, based on a share price of $67 per share. However, Viasat shares have dropped dramatically since then, closing down 17% the day the acquisition was announced alone. Shares closed Dec. 14 at $44.55 per share, reducing the value of the stock by about $1 billion.

Suri shrugged off the decline in Viasat’s stock. “It’s a long game,” he said, noting Viasat’s stock rose significantly earlier in the year. Despite the recent decline, shares are still up year to date. “So, no, we don’t have second thoughts. We believe this is super compelling and some of this is just short-term pain, but ultimately it’s going to be good value creation in the long term.”

Mark Dankberg, chairman of Viasat, offered a similar assessment during another conference panel Dec. 13. “After a major transaction, generally the first reaction is that it goes down,” he said of the stock price. The company is working to give investors more information about “why it’s a good transaction.”

Another issue is the need to secure approval from the U.K. government for Visat to acquire London-based Inmarsat. “We’re working closely with the U.K. government,” Suri said. “We expect to end up with voluntary undertakings that we believe will be good for the U.K., good for the space sector in the U.K., good for Inmasat shareholders and good for Viasat.” Such measures could include increasing research and development investments and keeping facilities in place in the U.K., he said.

“We expect to be able to close those decisions with the U.K. government soon, which, I think, will facilitate a smooth path forward,” he said.

The broader satellite industry is closely studying the acquisition because of both the impact the combined company will have on the market as well as a signal for more consolidation among operators.

“This is creating a massive operator,” Jean-Marc Nasr, executive vice president of space systems at Airbus, said in a Dec. 14 interview. “For other operators, it will create some thinking about their strategy.”

The acquisition is “a good step” toward addressing issues about fragmentation and scale among operators, said Steve Collar, chief executive of SES, during a panel discussion at the conference Dec. 13. “I doubt that it will be the last.”