Telesat's revenues fall 10% in 2020 as firm prepares to launch LEO satellite project

Dan Goldberg
Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg. File photo

Satellite equipment provider Telesat’s revenues dropped 10 per cent in 2020 compared with a year earlier as a major broadcast customer cut back its services and COVID-19 battered clients in the key markets, the company said Thursday.

Telesat reported revenues of $820 million last year, down from $911 million in 2019. The company said it lost a contract with a major North American direct-to-home broadcast customer and saw revenues from clients in hard-hit sectors such as the aeronautical and maritime industries dip during the pandemic, while adding that the volume of short-term services it provided to other satellite operators also declined in 2020.

Still, Telesat said profits rose nearly $60 million last year to $246 million, mainly due to lower interest expenses and a 2019 loss on refinancing that did not re-occur in 2020.

The firm’s fourth-quarter revenues of $202 million were down eight per cent from a year earlier.

Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg said the Ottawa-based company is poised for major growth as it prepares to launch its ambitious Lightspeed program that will see it build a multibillion-dollar fleet of satellites to deliver high-speed internet service around the world starting in 2023.

Gatineau operations hub

“Lightspeed will give Telesat and our customers a decisive competitive advantage in serving the enterprise broadband connectivity market, helping to bridge the digital divide around the world and fuelling our growth for years to come,” he said in a statement.

Telesat said last month that European manufacturer Thales Alenia Space has been contracted to build the satellites, with much of the assembly work expected to take place in the Montreal area in partnership with Canadian aerospace firm MDA.

The company said the Lightspeed operations hub will be headquartered in Gatineau at a facility that’s expected to employ nearly 300 people. 

Meanwhile, Telesat has also announced plans to go public on the Nasdaq later this year and hopes to bring in up to US$344 million through auctioning off its portion of the “C-band” radio spectrum in the U.S. to wireless carriers that will repurpose it for 5G networks. 

“In sum, last year was a productive one for Telesat and we remain focused on maintaining the strong momentum we have as we execute our growth plans going forward,” Goldberg said.