Intelsat Says May Satellite Launch A Go

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Although its long-term plan is to reduce its fleet, Intelsat is on track to launch its newest satellite, Galaxy-18, in May, officials said Thursday.

During a fourth-quarter conference call, Intelsat CEO David McGlade noted that despite a two-day delay this week, a DirecTV satellite, DirecTV 11, successfully launched on a Sea Launch platform. Intelsat is using Sea Launch for Galaxy-18.

“The anomaly that occurred…did not affect us at all,” McGlade told analysts. “We’re on track to launch in May.”

Overall, Intelsat has five satellites that are being manufactured or in storage, with Galaxy-18 being one of those, according to McGlade.

A second one, Galaxy-19, is set to launch in the third quarter. The net result is that Intelsat will be adding 20 transponders of marketable capacity for North America, he said.

And in 2009, Intelsat will launch Intelsat 16, which will offer capacity for HDTV and other expanded services in Latin America.

Although Intelsat is launching some satellites to replace existing ones, overall its game plan is to shrink the size of its satellite fleet, which is the world’s largest. Intelsat has 53 satellites now.

“We continue to work on the plan we have talked about historically, to bring that number down eventually into the 40s, and then beyond we’ll go potentially below,” McGlade said.

Although it will reduce its actual fleet, Intelsat will bolster its capacity by bringing on-line premium, high-powered transponders that are well-suited to serve today’s media applications, like video and HDTV, he said.

McGlade told analysts that Intelsat can “grow revenue while being disciplined in our fleet investments.”

He added, “To be clear, the reduction in fleet size occurs because we are not choosing to replace our satellites on a one-for-one basis, not because we are selling satellites. Furthermore, the fleet reduction is carefully planned to insure that our coverage of the globe remains intact, and we believe this is a significant competitive advantage for the business.”

For 2007, Intelsat reported revenue of $2.18 billion, and a net loss of $191.9 million.

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