SES adding 204 transponders

Chris Forrester

Between now and the end of 2011 SES will add an extra 204 transponders to its own fleet, plus being responsible for extra capacity on projects like the recently announced YahSat joint-venture over the Middle East. SES’s own fleet expansion adds 19% to today’s available capacity of some 1105 transponders (as at March 31).

The news emerged during SES’ Q1 results presentation. SES’ current group-wide transponder utilisation is 79.6%, or the equivalent of 880 commercialised transponders. “Good revenue growth, up 8.4%, and recurring revenues up 3.1%,” said Romain Bausch, president of SES, while stressing that while SES was not in any way suffering from the current economic downturn, if the recession lasted well into 2010 then there could be problems.

Bausch said that broadcasters might delay their own channel expansion plans, and thereby delay growth because of their economic problems. Some channels might inevitably face economic challenges, but overall Bausch was buoyant about prospects for growth, with transponder revenues firm, and “rising in Africa and the Middle East”.

He specifically addressed the analogue capacity taken by German broadcasters, saying that their original ‘analogue switch off timetable’ originally set for 2010-2012 would now likely happen “towards the end of that date”. Bausch said that new high-definition transmission plans from German broadcasters like ARD-ZDF, Premiere, Pro Sieben and RTL would also take place over the next months and years.

"The evolution of our business during the first quarter of the year is in line with our expectations and business plan, underlining the inherent stability and growth potential of the SES business model. We have made good progress, signing a number of new contracts and notably seeing further growth in HD programming,” said Bausch.

“We brought three satellites into operation in the quarter,” he added [Astra 1M, Ciel-2, NSS-9]. “With business developing according to plan and with new finance facilities secured, we look forward to reporting further progress as we move through the year.” Bausch explained that Astra 5A had now been placed into a graveyard orbit, and that Astra 2C would be moved temporarily to 31.5 deg East.

“The world economic situation continues to be uncertain,” Bausch said. “Should the recessionary environment last into 2010, it is possible that SES might suffer some negative impact, whether through the reduction of growth initiatives or as a result of customers experiencing difficulties. However, at this point, SES has experienced no direct negative impact. The majority of our customers have solid businesses and many are still demonstrating healthy growth. Therefore, the outlook for the group at this stage remains positive and the guidance published in February this year remains unchanged.”