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Sale of satellite giant Inmarsat imminent

By Ashley Norris

Investors pull threatened legal challenge, enabling sale to proceed

The sale of the UK’s largest satellite group Inmarsat to a private equity consortium came a step closer today after a group of hedge funds, who had threatened to mount a legal challenge, ended their opposition to the deal.

Oaktree Capital Management, along with other investors, had planned to object to a recommended takeover of the FTSE 250 company, at a High Court hearing on Tuesday, but backed down overnight.

The company’s sale to a private equity consortium led by Apax and Warburg Pincus is now expected to proceed unhindered.

Oaktree, a fund founded by American investor, writer and billionaire Howard S Marks, had argued that the price tag did not reflect the value which could come from a project that might be undertaken by Inmarsat’s US partner Ligado Networks.

Rival satellite operators have seen significant share price rises fuelled by hopes that spectrum assets they own in C-Band networks in the US would be repurposed for 5G services. Ligado, and the other operators, are expected to discover if US regulators approve the plans later this month.

Had the judge, Sir Alistair Norris, ruled in favour of Oaktree and its partners, it would have been unprecedented in British legal history.

“Having considered our position carefully, we now no longer intend to raise objections to the Scheme being sanctioned at the hearing,” Oaktree said today.

“It is a matter of regret that despite the fact that our objections were raised in ample time for a further shareholders’ meeting, or the introduction of a contingent value rights instrument, neither of these things have happened. However, we do now acknowledge the issue with either course being taken in light of the new statements the Bidder has made yesterday.”

Inmarsat, which is based in Silicon Roundabout, Old Street, London, has been a staple of the British tech world for decades. Founded as a marine safety company by the United Nations in the 1970s, it floated as a satellite based communications company in 2005, aiming to provide connectivity to broadcasters and mobile phone companies as well as ships, planes and soldiers working in remote areas without mobile or landline coverage.

FURTHER READING: UK government to approve takeover of satellite company Inmarsat

FURTHER READING: Amazon Applies for US License to Launch Over 3,200 Satellites

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