A shake-up of the satellite communications industry is expected after the purchase of GE Americom by Luxembourg-based Société Européenne des Satellites (SES) for $5 billion. Potential buyers are already hovering over General Motors' Hughes Electronics satellite operations subsidiary.

The SES deal will see a holding company, SES Global, formed to purchase 100% of Americom for $2.7 billion, plus shares, and 100% of SES Astra in a one-for-one share swap. GE Capital will in turn take 25.1% of SES Global.

The resulting business will be valued at €14 billion ($12 billion), with proforma revenues of €1.41 billion. It will be the largest broadband satellite services provider, with 28 satellites (11 Astra and 17 Americom) plus 13 others in which it has a stake.

SES chairman Romain Bausch says the new entity "will be well positioned to build the future of broadband satellite communications through a global satellite fleet". SES Astra is a leader in the European direct-to-home market, while Americom serves cable and business communications markets throughout the Americas.

Hughes' PanAmSat unit, examined by SES before its deal with GE, remains on the market, while News Corp is looking at buying Hughes' DirecTV direct broadcast unit or its rival, EchoStar.

Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications (LMGT), which bought US service provider Comsat last year, has meanwhile agreed to sell Comsat Mobile Communications (which provides access to Inmarsat satellites) to Norway's Telenor for $116.5 million. Telenor acquired a third of LMGT's Inmarsat stake last year, making it the largest shareholder with 15%.

Iridium Satellite has also relaunched in the mobile market after acquiring the assets of bankrupt Iridium for $25 million last year. Voice service has resumed, and data service will follow in June. Burst messaging capability is expected later this year. Boeing-operated Iridium Satellite's costs are a tenth those of the original venture.

Source: Flight International