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Apax and Warburg on a clear route to Inmarsat deal after rival burns up

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A consortium involving Apax Partners and Warburg Pincus plus two Canadian pension funds seems clear to buy Inmarsat after a rival group withdrew without bidding.

According to reports the alternative group – Centerbridge, Cerberus and SoftBank’s Fortress Investment – were about to bid £3 billion for the London-based satellite company but decided, after advice, not to go ahead.

Inmarsat confirmed last month that it had received a $3.3 billion (£2.53 billion) bid from Apax and Warburg Pincus plus the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan

In the middle of 2018 Inmarsat turned down a £3.2 billion bid from US satellite operator EchoStar.

Apax, one of the members of the consortium that looks set to emerge as the winner, was a majority owner of Inmarsat – along with Permira – before floating shares in the company in 20015.

Other companies that have shown a passing interest in Inmarsat include Eutelsat, which said last year is was interested but then decided to go no further.

Satellite companies have invested high sums in launching new broadband platforms, mainly aimed at delivering Wifi services to passenger aircraft. Their high geostationary orbits mean there is a built-in latency that make them difficult for voice services or some interactive data networks.

Low-orbit satellite companies are also starting to emerge, typically planning fleets of 800 to 1,000 tiny satellites 750km or so above the Earth, with latency measured in a few milliseconds – but they are still in their early days.  

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