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Satnews Daily
May 19th, 2020

Forrester Reports: Eutelsat Demonstrates Resilience + Foreign Satellite Operators Must Pay Fees

Chris Forrester

The latest Chris Forrester filing at the Advanced Television infosite reveals that Eutelsat’s Q3 numbers were “in line with expectations [and] a return to quarter-on-quarter growth with ongoing signs of commercial dynamism in emerging markets with a new DTH platform in Sub-Saharan Africa and the extension of a contract in the Balkans,” this according to CEO Rodolphe Belmer on May 14th.

Belmer also welcomed progress on C-band over the US and said that Eutelsat expected to receive $507 million (€470 million) as a result of the upcoming FCC auction. During phase one, $125 million would be paid to Eutelsat and $382 million in Phase 2.

Giles Thorne, equity analyst at investment bank Jefferies, told clients that Eutelsat’s Broadcast division performance “finally sees Eutelsat deliver what it has promised for some time now: resilience.

However, Thorne also reminded readers that it has taken seven quarter-year periods to get its guidance in line and even “that rarest of sightings: out-performance.” He was referring to Eutelsat’s extremely important Broadcast division’s Q3 being up 2.5 percent (and 62 percent of the company’s revenues).

As to the other divisions, Data & Professional Video was down 6.1 percent and not helped by the absence of sports and similar Occasional Use demand. Government services was up a tad at 0.3 per cent, and Mobile Connectivity held up and was 5.1 per cent up y-o-y.

Belmer added that he expected the impact of Coronavirus on Full Year revenues to be limited, reflecting mainly the effects of confinement on Mobility, Professional Video and to a lesser extent Fixed Broadband.

As we continue to assess the effects on future years, we do so with the confidence that our strong financial position and cash-flow generation capacity, together with our combination of resilient heritage activities and connectivity-related growth opportunities will ensure we are well positioned to withstand challenges of the current environment,” Belmer added.

Total revenues for Q3 stood at €322.0 million, down 4.4 percent year-on-year.

At March 31, 2020, the total number of channels broadcast by Eutelsat satellites stood at 6,867, down 2 percent year-on-year and stable quarter-on-quarter. On a year-on-year basis, HD channels rose by 10 percent to 1,667, implying a penetration rate of 24.3 percent compared to 21.5 percent a year earlier.

During the quarter, Eutelsat 7C entered into service, bringing 19 incremental transponders to the African market which are expected to ramp-up gradually; elsewhere, Eutelsat 5 West B entered into service, replacing E-5 West A which is now operating in inclined orbit.

The number of used transponders stood at 959, stable year-on-year and down by seven units quarter-on-quarter. As a result, the fill rate stood at 69.7 per cent at end-March 2020 compared to 67.7 percent a year earlier and unchanged over the quarter.

The order backlog stood at €4.2 billion at March 31st 2020 versus, €4.3 billion at end-December 2019 and €4.4 billion a year earlier.

Also of importance from Chris Forrester is that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled that foreign-licensed satellite operators and “space stations” which access the US market must pay regulatory fees to the FCC.

The FCC, in the order, says it is having to devote significant resources in processing market access applications of non-US satellites.

The ruling gained a favorable reception by the likes of EchoStar and Hughes Networks, and Intelsat.

EchoStar/Hughes, in its statement, stated it was concerned that it was paying fees when foreign operators received what they describe as regulatory benefits without paying fees.