Inmarsat in major expansion plans

London-based global satellite operator Inmarsat has unveiled plans to raise £380m through a stock market flotation.

London-based global satellite operator Inmarsat has unveiled plans to raise £380m through a stock market flotation.

The group, which offers advanced satellite communications services to, among others, the military, airlines, shipping and broadcasters, would be worth over £1bn if the flotation proceeds as expected later this month.

The cash will help Inmarsat pursue its ambitious plans to offer high-speed broadband services covering 98 per cent of the world’s population by the end of next year.

The group recently launched the first of its Inmarsat-4 satellites, which will support its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) system. BGAN will herald a major expansion of Inmarsat’s capabilities on land, adding to its established technologies serving the aerospace and marine sectors.

According to Inmarsat, BGAN will offer end-users ‘data transmission rates of 492kb/s, similar to, and in some cases higher than, the transmission rates planned for 3G terrestrial wireless networks.’ Target applications include video conferencing and providing private corporate data networks.

It is also planning new broadband services for shipping, where it already supplies communications and safety applications, and the aeronautical sector.

Chief executive Andrew Sukawaty said the successful launch of the first I-4 satellite allowed the group to begin reaping the rewards of its spending on new technology over the past few years.

‘We are now coming to the end of a heavy investment phase, allowing us to focus on driving revenue and earnings growth and converting those earnings into cash.’

The group’s performance on the Stock Exchange will be watched closely by investors as an indicator of the potential of hi-tech communications- based businesses to deliver returns.

Satellite operators in particular have enjoyed mixed fortunes on the financial markets, but commentators said Inmarsat’s combination of advanced technology, industry pedigree (it was set up 25 years ago by the UN) and stable management would stand it in good stead.