March 27, 2019
Shipping communications will continue to be upgraded as a private equity consortium plans to acquire a major satellite operator.
Inmarsat management has recommended a proposed US$3.4Bn offer to shareholders from a consortium of investors, which promises to finance new satellite construction.
A team including Apax Partners, Warburg Pincus and two Canadian pension funds have offered a £5.46 (US$7.20) all-cash buyout. This offer is higher than an unsuccessful acquisition attempt in 2018 by rival satellite operator EchoStar.
Apax Partners has indicated that the headquarters will remain in London and it will continue to finance construction and launch new satellites for a new constellation. These will enhance ship connectivity with faster broadband and greater data bundles.
Inmarsat provides satellite communications to most of the world’s shipping fleets through its legacy L-band connectivity provided by FleetBroadband or Fleet One services. It provides VSAT connectivity through its Fleet Xpress services which combine the Global Xpress network with FleetBroadband.
Ships also use Inmarsat’s Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), which is mandatory under IMO Solas rules, as a vital communications links during a maritime emergency.
To maintain these services over the long term, Inmarsat was investing in new satellites. Inmarsat Maritime president Ronald Spithout has previously told Maritime Digitalisation & Communications that Inmarsat was planning to commission a fifth satellite as part of its fifth-generation constellation. He expects a sixth-generation constellation to begin construction in 2020.
This investment will include two satellites with both Ka-band and L-band payloads for Fleet Xpress and maritime safety services.
Inmarsat has launched a series of services based on its Ka-band and L-band worldwide coverage, including Fleet Data to enable new digitalisation services in maritime and Fleet Secure for cyber security. It has introduced Fleet Safety including the SafetyNet and RescueNet information services.
This month Inmarsat unveiled its Crew Xpress service which provides VSAT connectivity over Ka-band for faster crew welfare communications.
Inmarsat was formed in 1979 as the International Maritime Satellite Organisation and was floated by Apax Partners in 2005 on the London Stock Exchange.
This US$3.4Bn offer is the major acquisition Maritime Digitalisation & Communications forecast would happen in a comment in 2018. It comes as the satellite communications industry is in the midst of a wave of consolidation, with major VSAT service providers picking off smaller rivals.
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