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ITC Global Talks Motives for Panasonic Avionics Acquisition

By | May 27, 2016
      shutterstock oil rig ITC Global

      Photo: ITC Global / Shutterstock

      [Via Satellite 05-27-2016] Panasonic Avionics’ acquisition of ITC Global last year took many in the industry by surprise when announced at the SATELLITE 2015 Conference & Exhibition. The deal brought together one of the industry’s most prominent In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) providers with one of its most well known providers of remote connectivity for the energy, mining and maritime markets.

      The ITC Global acquisition officially completed five months later in August 2015, but both the changes that followed after and the discussions that preceded it made for one of the year’s more unique Merger and Acquisition (M&A) moves according to Joe Spytek, CEO of ITC Global. Spytek told Via Satellite that while the combination probably caught many observers off guard, people now realize why it made sense.

      “In the case of Panasonic buying ITC Global, it was more of the engineering skillset and the methodology of doing business that ITC Global brought to the table in terms of putting the customer at the center of everything we do, building bespoke, custom networks versus the larger scale, more global ‘ISP in the sky’ type mentality that this unit of Panasonic had,” he said.

      Spytek said there is a significant amount of overlap between heavily used maritime routes and popular flight paths, creating a lot of synergy between the satellite coverage of both companies. At the time of acquisition, Panasonic covered 99 percent of airline flight hours, which equated to 98 percent of maritime traffic routes, according to the company.

      Panasonic Avionics, being a large purchaser of satellite capacity, has often worked collaboratively with satellite operators to design payloads for future use. The company has reserved capacity on Intelsat’s EpicNG satellites Intelsat 29e and 33e, Telesat’s Telstar 12 Vantage, on Eutelsat’s upcoming Eutelsat 172b satellite, and on SES’ future SES 14 and 15 spacecraft. While a lot of the main focus for these deals was IFC, ITC Global will reap the benefits in maritime.

      “There is overlap but it is not exact, and the design of the satellites would be potentially different if you were just thinking of one or the other. But since — and frankly well in advance of the acquisition — we were already starting to talk about what those designs would now look like with incorporating other verticals into this network,” said Spytek.

      In March this year Panasonic Avionics extended the reach of its broadband communications and digital entertainment services to maritime — one of ITC Global’s core markets. Spytek said ITC Global is planning a big push further into the maritime segment, with investments in companies like Kymeta expected to grow the addressable market for satellite.

      “In the maritime vertical we have seen very significant growth,” he said. “This is the one with the most synergies with Panasonic, and we are able to bring some of the resources of Panasonic to bear to expand in the maritime market pretty aggressively. There are a lot of things we will be doing in maritime that will catapult us to the forefront in a number of verticals in the maritime space over the next couple of years.”

      Another area of greater crossover is with cybersecurity. Because ITC Global is considered a connectivity provider to critical infrastructure, the company has long been required to meet the same rigorous cybersecurity requirements as Panasonic. Spytek said the company has a team consisting of roughly two dozen people that actively monitor the network for threats, as well as create proactive services. ITC Global has not productized these services, but Spytek said that they would sell them eventually.

      Spytek said much of the impetus for better cybersecurity has come from mining and energy sectors, and less from maritime and yachting. He said he has been “amazed” by the lackadaisical attitude of many in the satellite industry toward cyber threats. That mentality is changing swiftly today, but Spytek said there is still a dearth of knowledge and concern.

      “Many of the major Requests for Proposals (RFPs) we have responded to in the last three to five years have had a cybersecurity component. They at least want to see what our policies are and what our internal controls are, but I would say pretty wide swaths of the customer base still don’t understand what the world of threats really consists of. There are still a lot of gaps in our industry that need to be addressed,” he said.

      The oil and gas market, despite current economic conditions, remains ITC Global’s largest sector. Spytek said there is “significant weakness” in the land-based energy market, which spread to the more mature offshore markets where it is more expensive and difficult to do business. He described it as a tough operating environment, but one that ITC Global has been somewhat sheltered from because the company is less exposed to some of the more difficult markets.

      “We were really focusing more on some of the emerging areas of the world like Africa, the Asia Pacific and some others. While the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea have been hit really hard, there are certainly pockets of strength, and we see Africa, with West Africa in particular and the Middle East as [stronger],” he said.

      As evidence of this, ITC Global recently signed an 84-month contract to provide connectivity for two Saipem Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessels in Western Africa. Spytek said ITC Global designs custom networks and works with customers in such a way that projects can take a lengthy amount of time to turn into contracts, but once they do they usually stay.