Abertis Sells Eutelsat Stake to China, Shifts Focus to Hispasat Ownership

[Satellite TODAY Insider 06-25-12] Spanish mobility and telecommunications infrastructure sovereign fund Abertis Infraestructuras SA has agreed to sell a 7 percent stake in satellite operator Eutelsat Communications to China Investment Corp. for 385.2 million euros ($483 million), Albertis announced June 22.

   Abertis said it would relinquish 15.4 million Eutelsat shares to China Investment for an expected net capital gain of 237 million euros ($297.4 million). The sale follows Abertis’ divestment of a 16 percent share of Eutelsat in January for 981 million euros ($1.23 billion) and leaves the Spanish firm with an 8.35 percent stake in the FSS operator.
   “Abertis will continue reshuffling its holdings in the satellite infrastructure business and strengthen its commitment to growth, specifically targeting projects in which it can take an industry leadership role and a greater financial consolidation, as in the case of [regional satellite operator] Hispasat,” Abertis said in a company statement.
   Abertis said it would move forward with plans to restructure its holdings in European satellite projects, eyeing an increased stake in Hispasat after selling more of Eutelsat. Earlier this year, Abertis raised its stake in Hispasat to 47 percent, becoming its biggest shareholder, and initiated talks with the Spanish government regarding its 26 percent stake.
   “Abertis will likely dispose the remaining stake [of Eutelsat] down the road,” Banco BPI Analysts Bruno Silva and Pedro Oliveira wrote in a June 22 research note.
   In October 2008, Abertis Telecom, a subsidiary of Abertis, reached an agreement to purchase an additional 5 percent stake in Hispasat from EADS/CASA to increase its total shareholding in Hispasat to more than 32 percent. Abertis Telecom paid 35 million euros ($46.4 million) for the 5 percent stake. In July of that year, Abertis acquired 28.4 percent of Hispasat for 199 million euros ($263.63 million) from Ensafeca Holding Empresarial, previously Auna, and BBVA, private shareholders in Hispasat. The European Commission (EC) had just cleared the proposed acquisition of joint control over Hispasat by Abertis and a group of Spanish state-owned entities.
   This past May, Hispasat Chairwoman Petra Mateos’ proposal to hire Carlos Espinós as the Spanish operator’s new managing director was approved by the company’s board of directors.
   Espinós, who has been a director of Hispasat since July 2008, previously served as general sub-manager and director of satellites infrastructure for Abertis Telecom and as a director of Eutelsat. “The inclusion of Carlos Espinós of the Hispasat structure reflects the strategic investment of Abertis, the leading Group shareholder, by the company and its interest in intensifying the future development of the company,” Hispasat said in a company statement.

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