Eutelsat about to get its hands on OneWeb

Eutelsat about to get its hands on OneWeb

by Elizabeth Piper and Mathieu Rosemain

LONDON/PARIS (Reuters) – French satellite operator Eutelsat is set to take control of its British competitor OneWeb in a deal likely to be announced as early as Monday, Reuters reported on Sunday. two sources close to the discussions.

OneWeb was valued at $3.4 billion (€3.33 billion) in its latest funding round, one of the sources said. Eutelsat is already the second largest shareholder of OneWeb, behind the Indian Bharti Global, with a 23% stake in the capital.

This merger would strengthen Eutelsat and OneWeb in the race for the development of low-orbit satellite constellations against competitors such as Starlink, which depends on SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, and Kuiper from Amazon.

These constellations are seen as a new way to deploy high-speed internet around the world.

A merger of Eutelsat and OneWeb would have a political dimension by involving public capital from France, China and Great Britain, in addition to the Indian businessman Sunil Bharti Mittal.

The public bank Bpifrance is Eutelsat’s leading shareholder with 20%. Sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation is fourth, according to data from Refinitiv.

With Bharti, the British state saved OneWeb from bankruptcy and would thus become a minority shareholder in the new entity, one of the sources said.

Eutelsat has a capitalization of 2.4 billion euros on the Paris Stock Exchange and a net debt of 3 billion at the end of 2021.

In the event of a merger, Britain would retain special rights over OneWeb, the second source said, including a right to veto any sales to customers deemed unsafe on security grounds and a right to veto any head office moves. social.

The British state would also have a right of veto over any commercial relationship that could harm intelligence cooperation between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, and it would also have a say in supply chain and launch decisions.

Eutelsat declined to comment on the subject.

Bloomberg was the first to report this possible merger.

(Report Elizabeth Piper in London and Mathieu Rosemain in Paris, French version Bertrand Boucey)

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