Arianespace is continuing to see a recovery in the market for commercial satellite launches, fuelled in large part by demand that is returning from the Asia-Pacific region.

Chief executive Jean-Yves Le Gall said on a visit to Singapore that the European commercial satellite launch firm expects 15 or 16 launch services contracts to be awarded worldwide this year, of which Arianespace should win around half.

This is comparable to last year's 17 worldwide contracts that were open to competition, of which eight went to Arianespace - but nowhere near the much higher levels seen before a sharp downturn hit the sector. Nevertheless, Le Gall says it is positive as the recovery is continuing after the "real crisis of the last few years".

"It was probably the biggest crisis this sector experienced since its inception 20 years ago," he says, adding that the recovery is being seen in part on the back of demand for satellites for new high definition and interactive television services.

Asia is also emerging as a prime market for satellite launch contracts following a glut of several years.

"During the last two or three years we saw almost no contracts awarded in Asia," says Le Gall, "but this year there have been four for Arianespace". These have come from Australia and Japan.

"Now we are seeing a good recovery in Asia Pacific," he adds, predicting that several more launch services contracts will be awarded this year by companies in the region.

Before the downturn that caused losses for Arianespace in 2001 and 2002, launch services contracts were spread almost evenly between Asia, Europe and the USA.

Le Gall says this year around 40% of the contracts should come from Asia, followed by around 35% from the USA and around 25% from Europe.

"Today the trend is probably better in Asia than it is in Europe," he says.

Arianespace expects to end the year having performed five launches of its Ariane 5. The company, which currently has a backlog of 34 satellites to be launched, returned to profitability in 2003 with a net gain of €9.2 million ($11.2 million) on sales of €559 million.



Source: Flight International