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Satellite Company OneWeb Emerges From Bankruptcy With UK, Bharti Backing

11/20/2020 | 11:09am

By Adam Clark

Satellite company OneWeb has emerged from bankruptcy protection after receiving a $1 billion investment from the British government and India's Bharti Global Ltd., as the U.K. looks to strengthen its position in space technology.

OneWeb filed for U.S. bankruptcy protection in March having only launched 74 of its planned 650 low-Earth-orbit satellites. The U.K. government teamed up with Indian businessman Sunil Mittal--the owner of Bharti Airtel Ltd.--to acquire the London-based company and secure a 'golden share', which will allow it to veto future investments and limit technological access from other countries.

The deal is one of several moves that Boris Johnson's government has made to secure what it sees as strategic technology. It proposed new legislation the past week to make it easier to block foreign takeovers of British companies, and on Wednesday it said it would launch its biggest increase in defense spending since the Cold War, including forming a new Space Command.

"Access to our own global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect people world-wide, providing fast U.K.-backed broadband from the Shetlands to the Sahara and from Pole to Pole," U.K. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said.

Neil Masterson, a former chief operating officer at Thomson Reuters Corp., has been appointed as chief executive of OneWeb. Previous CEO Adrian Steckel will continue as an adviser to the board. The company intends to launch another 34 to 36 satellites in December, with further launches through 2021 and 2022.

A joint-venture facility with Airbus SE in Florida has been reactivated and its production lines brought back into service.

"Early research at Airbus and from a number of other key experts indicates that future OneWeb LEO satellites could offer greater national resilience and a huge leap forward in the infrastructure needed to roll out truly autonomous vehicles--land, air and sea," Richard Franklin, managing director of Airbus Defence and Space Ltd., said.

Write to Adam Clark at adam.clark@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

11-20-20 1108ET

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