SpaceX Powerless Against Viasat Takeover of Inmarsat

SpaceX cannot prevent Viasat takeover of Inmarsat

US satellite operator Viasat is set to acquire its British counterpart Inmarsat, pending approval from US telecoms regulator FCC and British competition authority CMA. The EU Commission is currently examining the matter separately. The $7.3 billion deal was announced in November 2021 and is expected to be completed in May 2022. Viasat will pay $850 million in cash and assume $3.4 billion of net debt from Inmarsat, as well as offer treasury stock valued at $2 billion at the time of agreement. Inmarsat has been owned by a consortium of financial investors and pension funds.

The takeover has faced opposition from SpaceX, which had its application to prevent the acquisition rejected by the FCC. SpaceX claimed Viasat was transmitting using frequency ranges that SpaceX had rights to, implying that Viasat was not qualified for satellite networks. However, the FCC countered that Viasat had already been classified as qualified several times, and that its licences already granted were unrelated to the merger. National security assurances were made by Viasat to the US government to obtain acquisition approval.

Inmarsat holds 14 geostationary satellites and Viasat currently has five satellites, including KA-Sat, which supplies Europe. In February 2022, these satellites were attacked and it has since been agreed among the EU, US, and UK that Russian military intelligence was responsible for the outage. Viasat is currently preparing a new constellation called Viasat-3, consisting of three satellites with a transmission capacity of one terabit per second each. On May 1st, SpaceX successfully launched the first of these three new satellites into orbit.

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