Global private equity firm Permira is said to have put up for sale its majority owned portfolio company ABS, one of the fastest growing premium fixed satellite services operators in the world, supplying bandwidth connectivity to broadcasting, telecom and government customers.

The company’s prime orbital locations cover 80% of the world’s population across four continents, with its key high growth target markets in Asia, Russia, Africa, the Middle East and South America.

In September 2006, ABS successfully concluded the acquisition of the Lockheed Martin Intersputnik-1 (LMI-1) satellite which was renamed ABS-1 satellite.

In November 2010, Permira acquired ABS in a €184 million management buyout (MBO), from Citi Venture Capital International, the predecessor of CVC Capital Partners, and Asia Debt Management.

The emergence of new technologies in the satellite industry, including the arrival of HTS GSO and NGSO systems, has been a key focus at the CASBAA Satellite Industry Forum 2016 held at Pan Pacific Singapore on May 30th.

This is prompting the industry to embrace a substantial shift – from offering one-size-fits-all capacity to creating value propositions better tailored to customers’ fast-growing, diverse demand and the price pressures in dynamic economic circumstances.

Key industry leaders are said to have agreed that despite cyclical downturns in industries like oil and gas, there is still immense market potential in Asia. “These are cyclical forces that don’t fundamentally lead to long-term decline in demand,” said Jean-François Fenech, CEO of Eutelsat Asia.

China is likely to be building and supplying at least 10 percent of the world’s satellites by 2020, according to a leading space researcher. “A forecast by a foreign consultancy said that around 1,000 satellites will be launched by 2020 to meet the demands of the market, and we believe Chinese-developed satellites will account for more than 10 percent of that market,” said the director of the Beijing Institute of Space Science and Technology Information, Yuan Minhui, who spoke to China Daily on the sidelines of the Third China International Satellite Service Business Matching event, also held on May 30th.

“We are owned by a financial sponsor. They have been a very good partner for our company,” said Thomas Choi, Co-Founder and CEO of ABS, during the CASBAA conference, according to SpaceNews.

Referring to Permira, Choi commented further, “They came in after we had acquired in-orbit satellite capacity from other satellite operators. We had grand ambitions for new satellites. They put in a big chunk of new equity, which gave us the financing to do the ABS-2, ABS-2A and ABS-3A satellites.”

“Their fund has reached a time where they need to return the invested capital back to the partners,” Choi said. “It’s only natural they are seeking an exit. It’s just the way financial sponsors are, they’re limited to 5-10 years. So whoever steps up and buys ABS is going to buy a fantastic company.”

Choi, who built a strong multi-regional business in a short space of time, was recognized in 2012 as the Via Satellite Executive of the Year. “Tom Choi has built up Asia Broadcast Satellite at a remarkable pace,” said Mark Holmes, editor of Via Satellite. “Choi makes brave decisions from acquiring satellites, securing financing, to commissioning new satellites. In 2012, this approach reached a new level when ABS teamed up with Satmex to order four of Boeing’s new 702SP small platform satellites, and launched them on SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.”

ABS offers a complete range of End-to-End solutions including Direct to Home (DTH), Cable TV distribution (CATV), Cellular Backhaul, VSAT and Internet Backbone services with diverse IP transit through its European, Middle East and Asian internet gateways.

ABS is a young and fast growing global satellite operator, with an entrepreneurial and creative business approach. Headquartered in Bermuda, ABS has offices in the United States, Dubai, South Africa, Germany, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Permira is a global investment firm that finds and backs successful businesses with ambition. The firm advises funds with a total committed capital of approximately €25 billion (US$28 billion). The Permira funds make long-term investments in companies with the ambition of transforming their performance and driving sustainable growth.

In the past 30 years, the Permira funds have made over 200 private equity investments in five key sectors: Consumer, Financial Services, Healthcare, Industrials and Technology. Permira employs over 200 people in 14 offices across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The firm was founded in 1985 and previously operated under the Schroder Ventures brand. After raising its first pan-European fund in 1997, the firm became Permira following a rebrand in 2001.

Historically, Permira has been a leading investor in the satellite industry with substantial ownership stakes in Intelsat and Inmarsat.

With Permira’s support, ABS has reached a number of significant milestones. ABS-2 was launched in February 2014 – one of the largest satellites ever launched in the Eastern Hemisphere, with the potential to at least double the sales and earnings potential of ABS. ABS-3A was launched in March 2015 – a ground-breaking satellite with an innovative design to connect the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

ABS is now operating a fleet of six satellites from six orbital locations, and is on its way to becoming one of the top 5 Fixed Satellite Service operators globally. During the past five years, the number of its physical transponders grew from 103 to 348.

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