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GS Capital acquires £363m satellite stake

GS Capital Partners, the principal investment arm of Goldman Sachs, has bought a 16 percent stake in France based satellite operator Eutelsat.

GS Capital Partners has acquired a 15.8 percent stake in international satellite operating company Eutelsat from telecoms company BT Group in a deal valued at £363 million (€526 million; $675 million).

Eutelsat provides satellite-broadcasting services to an area stretching from the US eastern seaboard, across Europe and Africa to the Pacific. It was established as an intergovernmental organisation in 1977, and was incorporated as a France-based private company in 2001.

Eutelsat's founding shareholders included several national telecoms operators, including BT. Today the Belgian phone company Belgacom SA is the only national telecoms company to retain a stake, and the company is now largely owned by private equity firms including French buyout firm Eurazeo and a unit of Lehman Brothers.

This acquisition by the $5.25 billion GS Capital Partners' 2000 fund is the latest in a series of satellite deals among private equity firms this year. Last April Kohlberg Kravis Roberts announced an agreement to buy satellite operator PanAmSat in a deal worth $3.55 billion. Two months later The Blackstone Group acquired Dutch satellite communications business New Skies Satellites for $956 million in cash.

In August a private equity consortium comprising Apax Partners, Apollo Management, Madison Dearborn and Permira announced the $5 billion acquisition of Intelsat. However, this deal may have been put at risk by the unexpected
failure of one of the company’s satellites which was reported earlier this week.

GS Capital Partners is the primary principal investment vehicle of Goldman Sachs. The Eutelstat investment was made by the $5.25 billion GS Capital Partners 2000 fund, which includes $1.5 billion of
commitments made by Goldman Sachs and its employees.

BT is Britain's main telecommunications operator and provides telephone and internet services to customers in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. This deal marks the culmination of a series of sales of its holdings in satellite companies.