EADS to build satellite system for Abu Dhabi

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Abu Dhabi, European aerospace group EADS (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research), France's Thales (TCFP.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) and Italy's Alenia are part of a group that won a $1.66 billion deal to build a satellite system for Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, an Abu Dhabi official said.

The first satellite will be launched in 2010, Waleed al-Mokarrab al-Muhairi, chief operating officer of Abu Dhabi government investment agency Mubadala Development Co., said yesterday.

“Demand for satellite communications capacity is booming in the Middle East and North Africa, and this demand is predicted to grow exponentially,” Waleed al-Muhairi, Mubadala chief operating officer and chairman of YahSat, told reporters.

YahSat plans to tap the $80bn global commercial satellite market by offering broadcasting services, internet trunking, corporate data networks and backhauling services for telecom operators in the Middle East, North Africa, South West Asia and European regions, al- Muhairi said.

“This is the first time that a government in the region has openly backed such a substantial venture in the satellite communications industry,” said al- Muhairi.

Mubadala said in May it had selected the group as preferred bidder beating out Boeing Co. for the contract, which it valued at $1.36 billion at the time. The deal also covers ground stations required to operate the satellite system.

The project will be financed 65% through debt and 35% via equity, al-Muhairi said, adding that a syndicate of banks would provide the debt financing.

The satellites will be launched within months of one another in the second half of 2010.

YahSat is the UAE’s second satellite telecoms provider after Abu Dhabi-based Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co, which plans to launch its third satellite this year.

Thales may invest tens of millions of euros in expanding its operations in the UAE and set up manufacturing facilities in the country, a company executive said.

“We were one of five companies prequalified. I think that the tender will be issued in October or November,” Thales executive vice president Jean-Paul Perrier told Dow Jones Newswires in Abu Dhabi.

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