09.23.08

Iridium brings much needed validation to the MSS market opportunity

Posted in Financials, Globalstar, Inmarsat, Iridium at 11:05 pm by timfarrar

Despite several successful fundraising deals this year by Globalstar, TerreStar and MSV, Iridium’s deal with GHL is noteworthy as the first investment to directly validate the potential of the MSS market in the absence of spectrum upside, since Iridium cannot free up significant amounts of spectrum for an ATC play.

However, there is no direct read across to the MSS market potential for other players, since Iridium and Inmarsat are the only MSS operators that can provide truly global service across the oceans and thereby address the maritime and aeronautical segments that account for roughly half of wholesale MSS service revenues. These markets segments continue to grow strongly, particularly for broadband communications, and we expect Iridium’s next generation system to be designed to compete more directly with Inmarsat for maritime and aeronautical broadband customers. Combined with moderate progress in land-based handheld and low data rate MSS markets, Iridium should be able to grow its revenue and subscriber base over time, despite increasing levels of competition from new players such as ICO, and Inmarsat’s entry into the handheld MSS market.

Where we can draw some conclusions for other players is on the maximum amount Iridium could afford to pay for Globalstar in the event of a merger, given the value placed on Iridium in this transaction ($591M). Given that Iridium’s revenues this year will be about three times those of Globalstar, and that Iridium presumably does not ascribe value to Globalstar’s ATC opportunity, it seems likely that Iridium would place such a low valuation on Globalstar as to all but rule out any prospects of a negotiated deal between the two companies. At least in this case, it therefore looks like we won’t see a merger being agreed any time soon.

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