Astrium targets IFEC market

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EADS's Astrium Services satellite information and communications unit is lining itself up to enter the growing market to provide airline passengers with inflight connectivity, through its acquisition of satcom services provider Vizada.

The deal, announced in August and subject to regulatory approval, will see Astrium Services use €673 million ($929 million) of EADS cash to buy the business from private equity owner Apax Partners France.

Vizada's main businesses are provision of fixed and mobile civil and military satellite connectivity through Inmarsat, Iridium and other systems to land, sea and air platforms, including flight decks. Customers include the US government.

Astrium Services chief executive Eric Beranger declined to remark on specific Vizada customer relationships before the deal closes, but said that when the inflight connectivity market is ready, "we should be pretty well positioned".

About 70% of Vizada's business is with commercial customers. Three-quarters of its $660m 2010 turnover came from mobile satellite communications services, and the rest from fixed telecommunications.

The acquisition will increase Astrium Services's headcount to 3,200, from 2,500 today.