No Antitrust Fears in Satellite Merger

Sep 5, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The $3.2 billion merger between satellite operators Intelsat and PanAmSat will create the world’s largest owner of commercial satellites if it goes through. But officials from the two companies aren’t anticipating any pushback against the deal because of antitrust worries.

Even though the merger, announced last week, combines two of the largest commercial satellite companies in the industry, executives of both companies maintain their sector is only a portion of a larger communications business, featuring everything from wireless providers to cable operators to wire-line telephone companies.

“We’re losing market share to [the telecommunications companies’] fiber,” which is becoming a popular alternative to using satellites, said Phillip Spector, Intelsat’s general counsel, in an interview.

This is especially the case in the video sector, Mr. Spector said, where the telcos’ fiber lines are increasingly delivering services once the domain of companies such as PanAmSat. Indeed, while PanAmSat dominates the business of delivering cable and broadcast programming to cable headends, counting as customers channels such as HBO, MTV and CNN, fiber is making some inroads, providing, for example, many of the feeds used by regional sports cable channels.

Furthermore, a closer look at Intelsat’s and PanAmSat’s businesses reveals very little overlap in terms of customers and regions. While PanAmSat has a strong video business, with fully two-thirds of the company’s revenue being derived from the services it provides to cable operators and programmers, most of Intelsat’s revenue is generated from telephony and data services provided to the federal government and to large national telephone companies including British Telecom and France Telecom.

As such, Mr. Spector said, he thinks the deal will pass muster with federal regulators.

The transaction culminated ongoing discussions between privately held Intelsat and PanAmSat that were described as having taken place “for some time,” said Intelsat CEO David McGlade, who is expected to take the CEO post of the merged company following the completion of the deal.

The deal, which was approved by the boards of both companies in unanimous votes, would create a satellite powerhouse that does business with everything from cable television programmers to network broadcasters. The company will have a fleet of 53 satellites serving customers in more than 220 countries and territories.

As part of the transaction, Intelsat, which is incorporated in Bermuda and has its headquarters in Washington, will pay $25 a share in cash and either assume or refinance another $3.2 billion in PanAmSat debt.

The newly combined company will retain the Intelsat name and its Washington headquarters. PanAmSat CEO Joseph Wright will become chairman of the combined company.

The transaction comes about a year after PanAmSat was purchased from DirecTV by three buyout firms-Carlyle Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Providence Equity Partners-for nearly $3.6 billion and the assumption of $750 million in debt. In March the firms sold 42 percent of PanAmSat to the public.