04.11.11

How can Sprint get comfortable with LightSquared?

Posted in Financials, LightSquared, Operators, Spectrum at 2:36 pm by timfarrar

Last week, I suggested that LightSquared’s most plausible path to a network sharing deal with Sprint would involve signing a multi-billion dollar take-or-pay capacity contract and using this to raise $1B+ of new equity. It appears that LightSquared is definitely exploring a possible equity raise through an IPO, although that would require it to strike a capacity deal first, and the only obvious large deal at present is via paying part of its obligations to Sprint in kind.

Of course that could leave Sprint in the uncomfortable position of being the only potential financial safety net for both LightSquared and Clearwire, precisely the issue which led me to speculate that Sprint might be better off choosing to partner with only one of the two companies. At this point in time, Sprint only gains an advantage in partnering with both LightSquared and Clearwire if it can either be sure that LightSquared will be solvent for long enough to (more than) offset the costs that Sprint would incur in a network sharing agreement, or if LightSquared can provide other adequate security for these obligations. Given LightSquared’s ongoing payments to Inmarsat, and the costs incurred by Sprint in a network sharing buildout, then (under the “deal” modeled by Credit Suisse) that might require new fundraising or guarantees (in addition to LightSquared’s existing cash) of perhaps $1B or more. If LightSquared could successfully execute an IPO then that would presumably help matters significantly, though it is far from clear whether raising anything close to $1B is feasible at this point.

Otherwise, I assume Sprint would be looking for other LightSquared or Harbinger assets to secure LightSquared’s obligations. I’m told that one possibility that has been floated is for Sprint to take a first lien position in LightSquared’s spectrum assets, and subordinate the existing $1.5B of debt. That prospect would presumably be very unpopular with existing debtholders, who already have to face a $2B+ obligation to Inmarsat, associated with the Cooperation Agreement (without which half of LightSquared’s ATC spectrum would be forfeited). Alternatively, would Harbinger offer some sort of guarantee secured against its other hedge fund assets (like the $400M UBS loan last July) or even a personal guarantee from Mr. Falcone?

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