Satel­lite ty­coon Er­gen joins UK res­cue plan for OneWeb

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Technology Intelligen­ce - By

Matthew Field

BIL­LION­AIRE satel­lite ty­coon Char­lie Er­gen is plan­ning to pump $50m (£39m) into Bri­tain’s bid to res­cue bank­rupt satel­lite maker OneWeb.

Hughes Net­work Sys­tems, a satel­lite firm owned by EchoS­tar, will take a small stake in the UK’s bid with In­dian con­glom­er­ate Bharti En­ter­prises. Mr

Er­gen holds ma­jor­ity vot­ing power at EchoS­tar. The $1bn deal sees Bharti and the UK Gov­ern­ment each take a 45pc stake in OneWeb. Hughes will take a small share of this hold­ing, un­der­stood to be in the low sin­gle dig­its, slightly di­lut­ing the UK’s po­si­tion.

Hughes was an early in­vestor in OneWeb but the deal in­creases its po­si­tion. Prad­man Kaul, Hughes pres­i­dent, said: “This global con­sor­tium brings the right play­ers to­gether to ful­fil the prom­ise of the OneWeb con­stel­la­tion.”

The deal cre­ates the pos­si­bil­ity for a fu­ture part­ner­ship be­tween Hughes

Net­work Sys­tems geo-satel­lites and OneWeb’s low-or­bit space­craft.

Mr Er­gen founded EchoS­tar in 1980. The space en­tre­pre­neur, who is also a for­mer pro­fes­sional poker player, is worth around $10bn.

OneWeb had been plan­ning to build a 650-strong satel­lite net­work to pro­vide global broad­band ser­vices be­fore it col­lapsed in March. The UK stepped in to res­cue the firm from bank­ruptcy with plans to use its satel­lites as a form of global nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem and a ri­val to GPS. Alok Sharma, the Busi­ness Sec­re­tary, said: “I am pleased that Hughes will be join­ing the con­sor­tium, bring­ing in ad­di­tional ex­per­tise.”

Bharti and the UK are un­der­stood to be in talks with other sources of fund­ing for fur­ther in­vest­ment. The Daily

Tele­graph pre­vi­ously re­ported the UAE’s sov­er­eign wealth fund, Mubadala, could also take a stake.

The UK re­tains a “golden share” in the com­pany, giv­ing it a veto over key de­ci­sions. The re­main­ing 10pc is due to go to OneWeb’s re­main­ing se­cured cred­i­tors, in­clud­ing Ja­panese gi­ant Soft­Bank. This week­end, how­ever, The

Sun­day Tele­graph re­vealed OneWeb’s res­cue faced a fi­nal court­room chal­lenge from a com­mit­tee of un­se­cured cred­i­tors, who are hop­ing to se­cure a $100m stake in the com­pany and usurp Soft­Bank.

Char­lie Er­gen is adding his wealth and knowl­edge to the UK bid for OneWeb through one of his com­pa­nies

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