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Avanti gets new ESA contract, seeks payment relief from suppliers, creditors

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator Avanti Communications, which is seeking a buyer or strategic investor to avoid a loan default, has won fresh support from its long-time supporter, the European Space Agency, in the form of a $12-million investment to provide broadband in Africa, ESA and Avanti said.

The announcement came as London-based Avanti told investors it would ask its bondholders to accept additional secured notes instead of $32.25 million in cash interest that Avanti owes Oct. 1 on its existing debt.

The payment in kind would be notes carrying the same 10 percent interest rate as the current debt and would be due in 2019. Investors who accept the exchange by Sept. 29 will receive $50 in new Avanti debt for every $1,000 in principal they tender, plus an additional $20 in debt and $1.50 in cash per $1,000 tranche.

Given the additional payments, Avanti said it would be issuing up to $45.15 million in new debt as part of the transaction assuming bondholder agreement.

Avanti has three tranches of notes, valued at $370 million, $150 million and $125 million, and said needed more time to negotiate with prospective buyers as part of a strategic review that was announced in July. The company said that 50 percent of its creditors had already agreed to take their payment in additional notes instead of cash.

In a statement to investors dated Sept. 16, Avanti said that to further reduce near-term cash outlays, it had reached an agreement with its Hylas 4 satellite contractors to delay $39 million in capital expenditure.

Avanti said the payment-deadline extensions would not affect Hylas-4’s launch date. The satellite is under construction by Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, and is scheduled for launch in early 2017 aboard a European Ariane 5 rocket.

Avanti’s Hylas-3 satellite, under construction by OHB SE of Bremen, Germany, carries an Avanti telecommunications payload and a separate optical data relay payload, called EDRS-C, to be operated by Airbus Defence and Space as part of ESA’s European Data Relay System. It is scheduled for launch, also aboard an Ariane 5, in 2017.

Avanti announced in July that it needed $50 million in cash to win the loan or loan-guarantee support from an unnamed export-credit agency. France’s Coface would be the most logical choice for Avanti at this point given the Ariane 5 launch of Hylas-4.

In its Sept. 16 statement, Avanti said it was continuing to discuss a possible acquisition with several prospective buyers and would request “best and final” offers that would be presented to Avanti’s board of directors.

Avanti said it expected to report $83 million in revenue for the year ending last June 30, down from $85.2 million the previous year. The company in July told investors to expect a 50 percent increase in fiscal-year 2016 “continuing business revenue on a constant-currency basis.”

The company said now expected revenue to grow by 35-40 percent annually in the coming two or three years.

The company’s capital spending is expected to be $96 million in the year ended last June 30, $110 million in fiscal-year 2017 and $80 million in the following year. Avanti said it had $56 million in cash as of Sept. 9.

ESA’s funding, totaling 10.7 million euros ($12 million), will help Avanti and ground-network provider Newtech of Belgium to provide WiFi to 1,400 communities in sub-Saharan Africa over the next two years.

“ESA is investing in European ground infrastructure and fostering the delivery of satellite services in global markets,” ESA Telecommunications Director Magali Vaissiere said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Avanti in Sub-Saharan Africa to support better education outcomes and to unlock new business opportunities for both local Service Providers and European industry technology providers.”

ESA did not immediately respond to request for comment on whether it took any special measures in the Avanti contract to protect its investment in the event of an Avanti loan default.

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Avanti gets new ESA contract, seeks payment relief from suppliers, creditors

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