[SatNews] Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq:IRDM) has announced that Aireon LLC, the developer of the world's first satellite-based global air traffic surveillance system, has entered into binding agreements with three new investors and major Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs): ENAV (Italy), the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), and Naviair (Denmark) for $120 million in new equity into Aireon.
Aireon is currently a joint venture between Iridium Communications Inc. and NAV CANADA, established to launch the Aireon(SM) system as a hosted payload on Iridium NEXT, Iridium's second-generation satellite constellation, scheduled for first launch in early 2015.
The investments by the new investors and NAV CANADA will be in the form of preferred interests in tranches between 2014 and 2017, subject to the satisfaction of various conditions. Following the completion of these investments, now $270 million in total, Aireon will be required, if and when funds are available, to redeem a portion of Iridium's interest for a payment of $120 million, which is expected to occur in 2018. Upon this redemption, NAV CANADA will hold 51 percent of the fully diluted ownership of Aireon, ENAV will hold 12.5 percent, and each of IAA and Naviair will hold 6 percent, with 24.5 percent being retained by Iridium.
"When we first envisioned Aireon, we recognized not only the enormous potential for transforming the future of air travel, but that Iridium was the only company capable of providing a platform for such a robust solution," said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium. "These new investors demonstrate the rapidly growing interest by global ANSPs and are a testament to how valuable the Aireon service will be to the aviation industry. As an investor ourselves, Aireon continues to be a big part of Iridium's growth strategy, and these agreements further exemplify the success that we expect to see in the coming years."
In addition to Iridium's retained interest and the $120 million redemption payment, Aireon has agreed to pay $200 million in hosting fees to Iridium for the integration and launch of Aireon's Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) receiver payloads on each of its Iridium NEXT satellites, and ongoing data service fees of nearly $300 million through 2030, assuming Aireon continues to successfully expand into a global business.
"Aireon continues to gain traction as ANSPs and airlines anticipate the benefits of extending air traffic surveillance over the world's oceans and remote areas, allowing for increased efficiencies and fuel savings," said Don Thoma, president and CEO, Aireon. "We expect to see more successes in the coming year, as other ANSPs around the globe continue to show great interest in the service Aireon will provide."
Aireon is the product of Iridium's commitment to establish an innovative use of the hosted payload capability available on Iridium NEXT. This new capability will extend the benefits of current radar-based surveillance systems, which are estimated to cover less than 10 percent of the world, to the entire planet. Iridium expects that Aireon will be accommodated on future Iridium(R) constellations, enabling continuity of its operations well beyond 2030.