In addition to Sprint’s announcement today that it plans to offer new debt in a private transaction, Sprint has more quietly been rounding up additional money from both LightSquared and DISH. In Sprint’s most recent 10-Q, filed yesterday, the company notes that “In September, the [spectrum hosting] arrangement was amended to change the September 30, 2011 contingency date for LightSquared’s performance to December 16, 2011. The December 31, 2011 contingency date remained unchanged. This amendment also provided for an additional prepayment of $20 million, which was received in October 2011.” Today, Sprint has told the FCC that “DISH and Sprint have today reached an agreement to settle all of these [reimbursement] disputes among Sprint, DISH, and their subsidiaries and affiliates in a mutually satisfactory manner” and will presumably therefore be paid a significant proportion of its $220M claim against DBSD and TerreStar ($110M per company) for BAS relocation expenses.
UPDATE (11/7): DISH has now revealed that it will pay Sprint a total of $114M, though it is not yet clear if Sprint will retain any additional claims in the bankruptcy cases of DBSD and/or TerreStar Networks.
However, the two disclosures appear to have rather different consequences for LightSquared and DISH. In the case of LightSquared, this represents another $20M of expenditure over and above the amount assumed in my analysis earlier this week. More importantly, Sprint has set a precedent under which it will now presumably expect to be paid even more money when LightSquared is unable to meet the revised deadline of December 16 and the second deadline of December 31 (and of course it is certain that the FCC will not be able to rule by then, because LightSquared’s proposed filter for precision GPS equipment is not being tested by the government this month, as LightSquared has now admitted).
I also now suspect that Boeing’s vendor financing loan may simply have been extended (perhaps by 12 months?), from its original December 2010 repayment deadline, and a new deadline is likely to occur relatively soon, because Boeing will need some certainty about whether the SkyTerra-2 satellite will be available for its MEXSAT project. If Boeing does insist on repayment (of what would now be $130M+) within the next few months, then (faced with the unpalatable alternative that LightSquared forfeits the ground spare satellite and potentially jeopardizes its ATC license) LightSquared could well run out of money before its next first lien interest payment in April. Specifically, my estimate on Monday was that LightSquared would have about $170M in cash at the end of Q1 2012, which would not be sufficient to cover a payment of $130M+ to Boeing, plus the $20M already paid to Sprint and the additional payments that are now likely in respect of the December deadlines. Even without making any repayment to Boeing, if LightSquared needs to pay Sprint an extra $20M for each additional 3 month deadline extension, then it would have barely enough money to make the interest payment due on April 1, 2012.
In the case of DISH, it appears that the news of a Sprint settlement is more positive, as it removes one of the main roadblocks to the FCC approving a transfer of control of the DBSD and TerreStar assets to DISH. However, DISH’s requested ATC waiver has come under more pressure, with AT&T now joining the CTIA in pressing for the waiver issue to be considered in a full rulemaking proceeding. Interestingly, both AT&T and the CTIA raise the question of a windfall, with the CTIA explicitly noting (footnote 21) that:
While DISH argues that it took into account the possibility of future flexibility for the spectrum during the bankruptcy process, certainly other parties were not factoring that into the process. Moreover, 40 MHz of nationwide, terrestrial broadband spectrum would not be valued at $2.8 billion. When looking at past valuations for such spectrum assets, a valuation of 3 to 4 times this would be more realistic if terrestrial rights were guaranteed.
Of course, that statement once again highlights the issue of LightSquared’s own $10B windfall problem which the GPS industry are now making so much of, and makes it harder for the FCC to grant DISH a waiver without some way to recover value for the Treasury. As a result, it is plausible that (with the transfer of control and ATC waiver being processed by the FCC in separate dockets) a ruling on the transfer of control could come ahead of any waiver decision.
UPDATE (11/14): A November 9 ex parte filing from DISH appears to confirm that the FCC is concerned about the “windfall” issue and might separate the transfer of control ruling from the waiver requests.