European satellite internet mega-merger approved

European satellite internet mega-merger approved

Eutelsat shareholders okay deal with UK-based OneWeb to create new entity to rival Starlink

PUBLISHED : 28 Sep 2023 at 18:45

(Photo Illustration: Reuters)
(Photo Illustration: Reuters)

PARIS – Shareholders of the European satellite operator Eutelsat on Thursday approved a $3.4-billion merger deal with Britain’s OneWeb, with the new entity out to become a global broadband internet champion to rival the likes of Elon Musk’s Starlink.

The approval came at an extraordinary general meeting for a partnership targeting sales of “some two billion euros ($2.1 billion) in 2027”, equivalent to double-digit annual growth, the company said in a statement.

The new firm, Eutelsat Group, will retain its French headquarters and continue to be listed on the Paris stock market.

For Eutelsat, the merger underpins a pivot towards telecoms, with the market for high-speed connections via low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which help serve isolated regions, expected to be worth $16 billion by 2030.

Notable rivals include Amazon and Starlink, which has already netted more than two million clients.

Starlink has nearly 3,600 satellites in orbit and has obtained authorisation to deploy 7,500 of 30,000 second-generation satellites.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos meanwhile is planning to deploy more than 3,200 satellites for his Kuiper constellation.

China is also in the race, deploying its Guowang fleet of 13,000 satellites.

And last November, the European Union announced its own Infrastructure for Resilience, Interconnectivity, and Security (IRIS) constellation to provide the bloc with secure internet connectivity from low-Earth orbit starting in 2027.

OneWeb shareholders include India’s Bharti conglomerate (30%), Eutelsat (22.9%), the British government (17.6)%, Japan’s SoftBank (17.6%) and the South Korean conglomerate Hanwha (8.8%).

Major shareholders in Eutelsat include France’s public investment bank Bpifrance, with 20%, and the maritime transport giant CMA CGM (10%).

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