Arianespace struggles towards profit

Chris Forrester

Satellite launch provider Arianespace had sales revenues last year of €955.7m, but only a net income of €2.5m. Both sets of numbers were marginally ahead of 2007’s revenues of €919.7m which generated a net profit of €1.9m. This is the sixth consecutive year that Ariane has been in the black – just.

Arianespace, in a statement, said despite tough trading conditions, it had enjoyed a “remarkable year”.

Arianespace is owned by a consortium of most European nations, but with France’s CNES (32.53%) and Astrium (15.81% directly, and another 10.87% via its Astrium GmbH Germany associate) being the main shareholders.

In 2007 there were 6 commercial launches carrying a total of 12 satellites. Last year, despite a queue of satellites waiting to be launched, and a long-held promise to increase actual launch rates (“scale-up of the launch system, reliability and availability”), the actual launch rate has stayed static. Last year’s commercial launch manifest saw only 10 satellites orbited on 6 rockets. Ariane says this year will see 7 launches take place.

Jean-Yves Le Gall, CEO at Arianespace, speaking two weeks ago at the Washington Satellite 2009 conference reminded delegates that quality, in terms of launchers, “has its price.” During the Washington event he had criticized Eutelsat for choosing a Chinese launch rocket. Le Gall added: “There are certain customers who seem to be intent on looking for cheaper launch service players, even newcomers such as China," Le Gall said. "There is a question on the real value of such policies, especially when the satellite operators themselves are earning quite a lot of money. From Arianespace's point of view, the readiness to launch, and our flight-proven solutions, remain the keys to success."