August 13, 2022

Neil Masterson, chief govt of OneWeb 

The boss of a Authorities-backed satellite tv for pc agency has defended its merger with a French rival as ‘optimistic for the UK’ after a backlash led by a former science minister. 

Neil Masterson, chief govt of OneWeb, which was rescued from chapter by UK taxpayers, mentioned the merger with Eutelsat would give it better firepower to develop. 

It got here after George Freeman, who give up as science minister simply three weeks in the past, claimed the deal arms over pioneering expertise lengthy desired by Britain’s European rivals on a budget. 

OneWeb’s UK future is protected by a Authorities ‘golden share’, enabling it to veto any transfer away and block gross sales on nationwide safety grounds. Taxpayers may have a seat on the board of the dad or mum agency, based mostly in Paris and listed on the French inventory market, with a secondary itemizing in London. 

Masterson argues that the 2 are stronger collectively. He mentioned clients had been ‘extraordinarily optimistic’ a few deal, which brings collectively its decrease earth orbit (LEO) expertise with Eutelsat’s older geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites, saying it was essential to construct up scale to compete in a sector the place rivals embody Elon Musk’s Starlink. 

The deal creates the one ‘LEO-GEO mixture’ firm on this planet, he added. ‘Within the final 20 months, this firm emerged from chapter, virtually on life help, and we’ve now grown to be a fairly vigorous-sized enterprise.’ 

The corporate has 520 workers, two-thirds of them within the UK, the place it’s run from London. LEO satellite tv for pc expertise of the sort pioneered by OneWeb goals to permit entry to high-speed web the place the bottom infrastructure is difficult to succeed in. 

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Functions embody broadband on planes and in distant places. Eutelsat’s GEO satellites, above a degree on the Earth’s floor, have been used for many years in purposes reminiscent of climate forecasting or tv. 

‘To have all that experience and be one in every of solely two LEOs right here in White Metropolis, underpinned by the energy of Eutelsat and the worldwide scale, I feel could be very optimistic for the UK and significantly for the UK house business,’ Masterson mentioned. 

‘It is a merger of equals. The enterprise prospects are a lot stronger collectively than they’re individually. Every of the shareholders who keep in may have an funding in a a lot bigger, extra profitable entity.’ 

He performed down fears China’s sovereign wealth fund, a minority investor in Eutelsat, may have a 1.8pc stake, saying it might don’t have any affect or board seat.