The world’s largest satellite
launching company, Arianespace, is in advanced
negotiations with the Essel group to acquire a stake
in the group’s first satellite venture. The Essel
group owns and runs Zee Television Network.
Mumbai-based Essel’s subsidiary,
Afro-Asian Satellite Communications, is currently
developing Agrani, which could soon become the first
private Indian satellite.
Equipped with C and Ku band
transponders, the $755-million Agrani will be aimed at
servicing broadcasters and providing data services to
corporate clients. It is a geo-stationary satellite
that will cover India and neighbouring countries in
South and Southeast Asia.
Arianespace says, negotiations
with Essel group are at an advanced stage and centre
on the issue of Arianespace bagging the launch
contract as well as acquisition of a minority stake by
Arianespace in ASC.
Arianespace had decided to pick
up a stake in ASC primarily to show its confidence in
the project and the future of private satellite
networks in India.
Arianespace will not be the first
foreign investor in Agrani. American defence company
Lockheed Martin has already taken an equity stake in
the venture, valued at $50 million. Videsh Sanchar
Nigam is the second major stakeholder with an
investment of $50 million.