Apax, Permira preferred bidders for Inmarsat

The two private equity firms have been granted preferred bidder status for the UK-based satellite operator in a deal valuing the business at around £900m.

The protracted sale of European satellite operator International Mobile Satellite (Inmarsat) looks to be nearing a finale with the news that Apax and Permira have been selected as preferred bidders for the business.


In a statement this morning, Inmarsat confirmed that “following receipt of final proposals from competing bidding consortia, the board of directors has entered into an agreement with Apax Partners and Permira Advisers to work with them on an exclusive basis to finalise the terms of an offer for the Company.”


According to the Financial Times, the offer is being made at $14.25 a share, valuing Inmarsat's equity at $1.425bn (£900m). Inmarsat declined to comment on the financial details of the transaction.


Set up in 1979, Inmarsat owns and operates a global satellite network, providing services to customers in the maritime, aeronautical and multinational corporate sectors. The group’s principal operational areas are: Global mobile satellite communications, transportable broadband communications solutions, and provision of content and applications to its key markets.


In its full year results for 2002, Inmarsat, which is owned by a consortium of Telenor, Lockheed Martin, Deutsche Telekom and British Telecom, reported a five per cent increase in group revenues to $463m. The firm reported EBITDA of $314m, an eleven per cent increase on the previous year.


The business has been the subject of considerable interest from financial buyers, the result of its steady cashflows. Soros Private Equity, Apollo Management and Madison Dearborn have all previously expressed interest in the business.


Earlier this year, French private equity house Eurazeo acquired France Telecom's 23 per cent stake in European satellite operator Eutelsat for just under E450m. In December, Italian private equity firm Investindustrial, formerly 21 Invest, teamed up with publishing group De Agostini to acquire a 10.9 per cent stake in Eutelsat from Deutsche Telekom for E210m. Also last year, a company majority-controlled by Lehman Brothers’ private equity division acquired Telecom Italia’s 20.5 per cent stake in the Eutelsat for $480m.


Apax and Permira have 15 days to reach agreement over a final offer.