* French export agency backs financing
* Shares up 7 pct
ATLANTA, June 2 Mobile satellite service
provider Iridium Communications Inc (IRDM.O) on Wednesday said
it chose Thales Alenia Space over Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N)
to design its next generation of satellites and announced a
financing plan for the project, sending its shares up 7
The company said the fixed-price contract with Thales
Alenia, a joint venture between France's Thales (TCFP.PA) and
Italy's Finmeccanica SIFI.MI, includes 72 operational
satellites and an additional nine ground spares.
The cost of the project, which will enable higher data
speeds and other enhanced products and services, is about $2.9
The company said that Coface, the French export credit
agency, has committed to guarantee 95 percent of the $1.8
billion credit facility for the project. That funding, which is
being syndicated through French and other major international
banks and institutions, is expected to be completed this summer
and is not contingent on Iridium raising further debt or equity
"We believe we will have all the money we need to finance
NEXT with this credit facility," Iridium Chief Executive Matt
Desch said during a conference call.
The Coface guarantee allows Iridium to obtain the credit
facility under favorable terms, Iridium said.
Thales Alenia Space said it expects 40 percent of the work
for the project, which is called Iridium NEXT, to be
subcontracted to North American companies including Ball
Aerospace (BLL.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N).
Iridium said Thales Alenia can begin work immediately on
the satellite development and plans call for the first
satellites to be launched during the 2015 first quarter.
Shares of Iridium were up 61 cents to $9.33 in morning
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs, editing by Dave Zimmerman)