Global satellite communication system operator Inmarsat may opt for an initial public offering (IPO) as early as the fourth quarter of this year. The exact timing of the move depends on market conditions. Inmarsat has meanwhile awarded manufacturing contracts for its fourth-generation satellite system to new space company Astrium.

Inmarsat committed to an IPO by 2001 when it was privatised last year. The flotation is to take place during a nine-month window from the fourth quarter. President and chief executive, Michael Storey, says the former intergovernmental organisation is close to appointing a co-ordinator for the process, with market conditions and receptivity determining the timescale.

Astrium's $700 million Inmarsat win involves the manufacture of three Inmarsat-4 satellites, forming a broadband global area network providing Internet, intranet, video-on-demand, video conferencing, fax, e-mail, voice and local area network services to mobile users.

The $1.4 billion network, operational from 2004, will provide higher data speeds up to 432Kbit/ sec and should generate revenues of $10-12 billion over its lifetime.

Astrium, a joint venture of Matra Marconi Space and DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, has seen plans to incorporate Alenia Spazio delayed by the EADS-Alenia deal, says Chris Chant, managing director, telecom and navigation division.

Source: Flight International