SupremeSAT eyes new orbital slot for first wholly-owned bird

First Published in Satellite Finance, 24 February 2015

Sri Lanka’s SupremeSAT is close to acquiring a new orbital slot for its first wholly-owned satellite, SatelliteFinance understands.

Sources at the operator said it was negotiating with a “globally renowned, listed satellite company”, after earlier plans to use Sri Lanka’s 50E slot were hit by political and technical issues.

The issues have pushed back SupremeSAT-2’s intended launch from mid-2016 to the end of 2017.

SupremeSAT-2 was ordered in 2013 through a US$215m in orbit delivery contract with China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC).

Similar to other spacecraft CGWIC has built for countries such as Nigeria and Venezuela, it has export credit agency support. Local reports suggest the operator is mostly being financed by its chairman, Sri Lankan born millionaire R. M. Manivannan.

The group also partly owns China Satcom’s ChinaSat-12 satellite, which it calls SupremeSAT-1 and was launched in November 2012.

The company sources declined to disclose its potential orbital partner, although one possibility could be Israel-based satellite operator Spacecom.

Omri Arnon, Spacecom’s VP for business development, told SatelliteFinance in a recent interview that the group was actively looking for partners for the orbital slots it has over Asia and elsewhere.

He declined to discuss any possible negotiations it was having, but said the group was hunting for joint venture opportunities as a way to expand its fleet in addition to organic growth.

“Partnerships can be made based on orbital locations, capital, know-how, or whatever you can contribute,” Arnon said.

“So a partner could be an operator or a country that is interested in launching a satellite.”

The orbital slots that Spacecom has on the table are thought to range from 20E to 140E.

Meanwhile, US-based SpaceX is preparing to launch the Israeli group’s Amos 6 satellite to its 4W hotspot this year, giving it coverage of Western Europe for the first time.

The operator currently covers Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia. Arnon said it could consider expanding into Latin America, although it still sees opportunities to grow within existing markets.

Spacecom’s owner Eurocom, a private holding company controlled indirectly by Shaul and Yosef Elovitch, had been close to selling the group to Spanish satellite operator Hispasat last year.

However, Hispasat walked away from talks to buy a controlling stake in August for undisclosed reasons. Local reports said Hispasat’s bid came short of the US$500m-US$600m that Spacecom had been seeking.

It is thought that regulatory issues also got in the way of the sale process, which SatelliteFinance understands was run by JP Morgan.

Spacecom declined to comment.

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