UPDATE 2-Inmarsat earnings top forecasts as maritime rebound accelerates

Fri Aug 3, 2012 7:40am EDT

* Q2 core earnings $176 mln, beating expectations

* Maritime growth accelerates from Q1

* Shares jump 9 pct to one-year high

By Paul Sandle

LONDON, Aug 3 (Reuters) - British satellite company Inmarsat posted better-than-expected second-quarter earnings on Friday as a rebound in its core maritime business accelerated.

Shares in Inmarsat hit a one-year high after the company said price changes for its maritime broadband products, including a minimum price per month, were boosting customer take-up and usage.

The group, which provides communications for shipping, aircraft and military and humanitarian operations in remote locations, posted core earnings of $176 million. That topped forecasts - analysts were expecting $162.8 million according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data - although earnings were down from $223 million a year ago.

The drop was due to the suspension of payments from LightSquared, the troubled U.S. telecoms company that had planned to use Inmarsat's spectrum to develop a mobile network.

Chief Executive Rupert Pearce said growth in shipping subscribers, with 2,295 new customers for its FleetBroadBand terminals added in the quarter, was driving progress towards meeting the company's full-year forecast of 0-2 percent revenue growth for its satellite services.

Revenues from the maritime business rose 12.7 percent in the April to June quarter f rom a year earlier, accelerating from a 7.2 percent increase in the first quarter and continuing to rebound after declining 0.5 percent in 2011.

"We have seen not just a sustained transition programme (to new terminals) but we are also seeing increased usage and ARPU (average revenue per user) holding strong as well," he said.

"We have also insisted that people pay a minimum price per month for access to FleetBroadBand services."

The charge of $3 a day, with a separate price plan for small vessels, is targeted at the competing VSAT industry, which Pearce said used Inmarsat's terminals as a back-up.

"We have made it much more difficult for our competitors to co-opt the qualities of FleetBroadBand into their own package product," he said.

Shares in Inmarsat jumped more than 9 percent after the results and were the biggest gainer on the UK's mid-cap share index.

Giles Thorne an analyst at Jefferies, who upgraded the stock to "buy" from "hold" in May, said the results were very good, with revenue and core earnings beating expectations by 8-10 percent.

"Within the mix, maritime stands out as being particularly strong, with total maritime revenue beating consensus by 9 percent," he said.

"Today's strong results put inexorable weight behind Inmarsat's recent re-rating. We see more to come."

Inmarsat said its land services were affected by the decline in troop numbers in Afghanistan, as well as tough comparatives a year ago when the Arab Spring caused a rise in demand in North Africa and revenue in Japan increased after the earthquake and tsunami.

Inmarsat increased its half-year dividend payout by 10 percent to 16.94 cents.

Its shares were trading 9.2 percent higher at 529 pence by 1126 GMT.

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