Satellite tycoon Ergen joins UK rescue plan for OneWeb
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