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Monday, 25 February 2013 14:43

NewSat's bird set to fly after funding found


Australian satellite service provider and would-be satellite operator, NewSat (ASX: NWT) has finally secured the funding needed to commit to the launch of its long-planned Jabiru-1 satellite.

The satellite is already under construction by US-based Lockheed Martin and is now scheduled to be launched by Arianespace in 2015.

NewSat has today announced a share placement that will raise A$105m in equity and a US$30m mezzanine placement to sophisticated investors from Singapore, that NewSat says it "looks forward to working with further."

Together with earlier funding commitments from the US Ex-IM bank and COFACE of France they take the total funding to US$611m of which US$108m is equity. Ex-IM and COFACE between them have provided US$399m on at an interest rate of approximately 2% on the basis of jobs created in the USA and France.

NewSat says it already has firm contracts for Jabiru-1 capacity worth US$618m and a sales pipeline valued at US$454m. NewSat founder and CEO, Adrian Ballintine, said: "Jabiru-1, at 70% utilisation is expected to generate in excess of US$3b of revenue over its 15 year life at 85% EBITDA margins."

Jabiru-1 has been a bird long in the hatching. It was first mooted by NewSat in 2007 in a proposal to the Australian Government for a jointly funded Government/NewSat satellite to deliver broadband services to customers beyond the economic reach of terrestrial networks. The Government did not take up the idea and NewSat repeated its proposal a year later saying that the project would cost an estimated $400m and could see the satellite launched in 2011.

With no success then either, NewSat announced in 2009 plans to go ahead with its own satellite under the name Jabiru. Despite the project being slow in development as NewSat has struggled to secure financing, it is far from the limit of the company's ambitions.

In November 201 NewSat revealed plans for Jabiru-2 (in reality dedicated capacity on somebody else's satellite) to provide "Highly targeted Ku-band coverage over Australia, Timor Leste and PNG [to satisfy] the growing demand from oil, gas, mining and government markets for cost-effective communication solutions in and around Australia."

Then in November 2011 it announced that it was prospecting for customers for a possible Jabiru-3 and Jabiru-4. Jabiru-3 was described as "a high-powered Ka-band satellite [providing] coverage over Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Europe [that will meet] the increasing demand for large bandwidth capacity from resources, military, government and carrier-grade telecommunications markets throughout the world's most rapidly growing regions."

Jabiru-4 would "[provide] high-powered Ka- and Ku-band coverage over the Pacific Ocean region [addressing] the increasing demand for fixed and mobile satellite capacity, from naval, maritime, government and carrier-grade telecommunications markets, to aid the delivery of anywhere-anytime communications."

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