Satellite Executive of the Year 2011: The Nominees Are…

Businesses throughout the satellite industry performed admirably in the tough economic conditions of 2011. Many executives worked to push their company higher, and the following six stood out to be nominees for one of the industry’s most prestigious individual awards.

Jean–Yves Le Gall, Chairman, CEO, Arianespace

Launch industry veteran Arianespace, under the direction of chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall, has always relied on trust — the consistency of its success — to foster confidence in its workhorse Ariane 5 launcher.

Arianespace had a positive year financially. The operator is expected to reach sales of around $1.3 billion and will likely finish 2011 back into black, a key achievement amongst all of the announcements of new contracts.

In 2011, Le Gall led a coordinated and successful effort to expand its portfolio beyond Ariane 5. In October, Arianespace completed the first launch of its own modified Soyuz from the European Spaceport in French Guiana — the culmination of a decade-long development and planning phase.

Arianespace and its partners added a new digital control system that incorporates both a digital computer and inertial measurement unit, which aims to improve the rocket’s navigation accuracy and control capability. The Soyuz’ first stage is composed of four RD-107A engine boosters that are liquid oxygen- and kerosene-powered — the same propellants used on each of the Soyuz’ three main stages.

Le Gall’s team believed that the market would continue to develop as new technology became available and in response, focused efforts on keeping pace with a variety of launchers. The Soyuz and Vega gave the company more exposure to customers with smaller satellites and its two successful Soyuz launches in 2011 only helped to promote that primary strength of trust and reliability.

Beyond the new, Arianespace continued to enjoy success through Ariane 5’s completed missions and new customer contracts. The September launch of the Arabsat-5C and SES-2 satellites, which includes the Air Force’s CHIRP hosted payload on SES-2, was Arianespace’s 46th consecutive successful Ariane 5 flight. Arianespace’s 2011 launch contract tally includes new service and multi-launch deals with O3b, NewSat, DirecTV Latin America, Optus, Hispasat, Telenor, ABS, Arsat (Argentina), SES and GlobalStar.

Le Gall’s company’s performance not only brings evolution to its own business, but to the entire launch sector.


Amiram Levinberg, Chairman, Gilat Satellite Networks

Amiram Levinberg, who is now Gilat’s chairman but was CEO for all of 2011, led the company to another strong year punctuated by a number of impressive contract wins, good financial performance and a positioning of the business to take advantage of potentially lucrative segments such as satellite communications in Latin America, as well as the U.S. government and defense business.

The company had a healthy increase in revenues for the first nine months of 2011 compared with 2010, growing from just under $167 million in 2010 to more than $245 million in 2011. Strong performance in its core VSAT business was the key behind this increase, despite the acquisitions of Raysat and Wavestream, which also brought extra revenues into the equation. Net profits were down, but this was mainly due to a one-off settlement fee, rather than any dip in the company’s performance.

Gilat signed several key contracts in 2011, including an extension with the Colombian Ministry of Information Technology and Communications for rural telecoms projects, a new contract to provide broadband services in rural Peru and one to provide turnkey VSAT network and operations for NBN Co’s interim satellite service in Australia. Its SkyEdge range of VSAT products remain some of the most popular of its kind and is one of the main reasons that the company posted such strong revenue increases in 2011.The company also reached a significant milestone when it announced in September that it had shipped more than one million VSATs.

Due to Israeli corporate regulations, Levinberg can no longer combine the CEO and chairman roles, and thus at the start of this year, he became chairman and Erez Antebi became CEO.

The company is now looking to expand into segments such as milsatcom and government. While milsatcom budgets, particularly in the United States, are being cut, the demand for bandwidth is not going away and Gilat could be a key beneficiary in the long-term. While its performance in the VSAT business remains strong, one of the future barometers will be its ability to monetize areas such as milsatcom and Ka-band.


Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium Communications

CEO Matt Desch has led Iridium to grow in areas that it was not expected to, driven by technological innovation in an ever-increasingly competitive sector. In September, Iridium saved up a month’s worth of new mobile satellite products and services announcements and packaged them into Iridium Force — an initiative that involved the opening of its core Iridium technology licensing, the launch of a new handset and the expansion of capabilities under its existing portfolio. The Iridium Force strategy includes allowing connectivity to Wi-Fi enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, as well as for applications beyond the reach of terrestrial networks. Desch’s plans to invest in developing open and embedded technology allowed collaboration with a broader set of solution partners in new markets. Elements of this plan included the Iridium Extreme rugged satellite handset; the Iridium Core 9523 voice and data module; and the rollout of Iridium AxcessPoint. This product has already generated a variety of new business for the MSS operator. AxcessPoint also was recently released as an Apple iPhone/iPad app.

The company also performed solidly from a financial perspective. In the first nine months of 2011, the operator generated close to $290 million in revenues, an increase of just under $30 million compared with the same stage last year. Its net profits were also up reaching more than $31 million, more than double the figure of the previous year.

In February 2011, Orbital Sciences entered into an agreement with Iridium Communications to reserve 20 percent of the hosted payload capacity on the operator’s Iridium Next satellite constellation. In July, Iridium announced that Desch was appointed to serve on the U.S. National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC). Desch now advises and provides recommendations to President Barack Obama and other government leaders on the security of the nation’s telecommunications systems.

There’s no denying that Desch has charted a considerable change of course for Iridium since its unstable days back in the early portion of the previous decade. Many satellite industry watchers saw the 2010 Iridium Next Coface financing deal as the catalyst that solidified its comeback. Desch’s latest initiatives could drive an industry evolution. 

Daniel Friedmann, President, CEO, MacDonald Dettwiller and Associates (MDA)

Under president and CEO Daniel Friedmann’s guidance, MDA has become an investment bank analyst favorite, consistently beating analysts’ forecasts and estimates. The company is on track to have a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 15 percent between 2007 and 2011, which shows it consistently delivers financially.

In the first nine months of 2011, the company posted revenues of C$582.9 million ($569.55 million), more than a C$100 million ($97.71 million) increase from 2010, and virtually doubled its profits in the same timeframe. It also completed a C$500 million (C$488.55 million) share buyback, returning excess cash to shareholders.

The company sold its property information business in early 2011 in order to refocus its efforts on the satellite side and international market. It was sold at a high price, showcasing Friedmann’s ability not only to position the business but also make the most of the assets that were at his disposal.

The company’s range of deal making in 2011 was impressive. In September, the company won a major contract with the U.S. National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to provide radar information. In August, it won a new monitoring deal with major Mexican oil company Pemex, covering the Gulf of Mexico using RADARSAT data. The company also signed a follow-up deal with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) for UAV capabilities in 2011, a key target area for the company going forward. MDA is definitely looking for more international business and the ADF deal could be a sign of things to come.

The company, which has grown to become a flagship entity in the Canadian space sector, has performed strongly in 2011. Its numbers and deal making point the way to an exciting future under Friedmann.


Paul Brown-Kenyon, CEO, Measat Satellite Systems

Measat Satellite Systems is building an ever-stronger presence in Asia and beyond. Under the stewardship of CEO, Paul Brown-Kenyon, the operator has built an enviable position serving the video markets in Asia. The company now carries more than 20 HD channels in Asia, and has built one of the most impressive video neighborhoods in the region, where pay-TV is growing in a consistently strong way. It also now has between 80 percent and 90 percent utilization of its C-band capacity on its Measat 3/3A satellites. The Ku-band capacity on these satellites is fully taken up.

What is interesting about the Measat story is Brown-Kenyon’s ability to take Measat beyond its home market of Malaysia and build a position in other strong regional markets such as India and Indonesia — these are not the easiest markets to enter into from a regulatory perspective. It further boosted its position in the region in 2011 by signing a deal with Centrin TV, a new DTH provider targeting the pay-TV market in Indonesia. The company now serves six DTH platforms in the region and is one of the first operators to bring 3-D TV to Asia. A broadband play may also start to develop for the company. In May, it signed a deal with Thaicom to become the National Service Operator (NSO) for Malaysian payload of the Ipstar service.

Measat’s financial performance has also shown consistent growth, a trend that continued in 2011 with the company likely to post another healthy increase in overall revenues and EBITDA. Net profits will likely remain the same as 2010.

However, while its strong position in the video markets in Asia is undoubtedly the company’s greatest strength, Brown-Kenyon is also steering the company towards other markets. One of Measat’s most interesting deals has been with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of the Republic of Azerbaijan to jointly develop the 46 degrees East Orbital slot. Two satellites, Measat’s AfricaSat-1 and Azerbaijan’s Azersat satellite are slated to be launched later this year. This is one of the most innovative deals that the operator has participated in.

Due to Brown-Kenyon’s initiative, the company is building towards an impressive future, continually expanding beyond home territory.


Mark_Dankberg.jpegMark Dankberg, Chairman, CEO, ViaSat

ViaSat and chairman and CEO Mark Dankberg’s four-year-long effort to send the company’s high-throughput, all Ka-band satellite ViaSat-1 into orbit came to a conclusion when it finally launched last year. This one event will impact the future of satellite as a whole for years to come.

Telesat will use the capacity of ViaSat-1 to support Canadian rural broadband provider Barrett Xplore’s delivery of future bandwidth-rich Internet applications. ViaSat-1 also will make a Ka-band impact on the in-flight market. ViaSat now will see its services adopted by several of its airline partners including JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV, which signed a letter of intent with Continental Airlines in March to provide ViaSat Ka-band airborne connectivity and Internet access. The agreement, finalized in April, included an order valued at more than $30 million for Ka-band airborne terminals and services to outfit the JetBlue fleet of more than 170 aircraft. With many airlines looking to ramp up their activity here, ViaSat could be well placed to secure a number of new airline partners in 2012 and beyond.

ViaSat-1 also has the potential to reach military markets. In November, ViaSat conducted a military demonstration to unveil its new mobile broadband system using an ultra-small aperture 12-inch Ka-band tracking antenna. The demonstration was attended by representatives from the U.S. Air Force, Army, Marines and Special Forces communities that witnessed a variety of applications, including full-motion HD video running concurrently over a secure, encrypted mobile satellite network.

Financially, for the first nine months of 2011, Viasat derived revenues of over $634 million, an increase of more than $30 million compared to the same stage last year. Net profits remained roughly the same. New contract awards during the nine months were significantly higher than the same stage last year with Viasat gaining close to another $100 million in orders.Behind these efforts, Dankberg has effectively ensured that his company will fully leverage the benefits of its new offerings, while maintaining a balanced focus on the growth of his company’s existing contracts. In September, ViaSat was awarded a group of contracts from Boeing to develop a ground-based, beam-forming system for the Mexican Satellite System (Mexsat) totalling approximately $40 million. ViaSat also continues to receive Low Volume Terminal (MIDS-LVT) orders for the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) and BFT-2 terminal developments with the U.S. Army to build off its significant Blue Force Tracking victory last year.

Interestingly, in 2011, the company also expanded the coverage of its Yonder high-speed Internet service over Brazil and the surrounding region. The StarOne C1 satellite is providing the bandwidth and a ViaSat regional teleport was installed and commissioned in Rio de Janeiro.

It is the innovation of Dankberg, as well as strong overall performance that has anchored ViaSat’s financial stability in an unstable economy.

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