UK Export Finance loans $325 million for Turksat satellites Airbus is building


WASHINGTON — U.K. Export Finance, an agency with a long-standing interest in supporting satellite projects but with little to show for it until now, has signed a $325 million loan with Turkey to support two satellites Airbus is building under a 2017 contract.

The loan, provided to the Turkish Ministry of Treasury and Finance, helps fund the Turksat-5A and -5B communications satellites that Airbus Defence and Space is building in the U.K. and in France.

Turksat-5A and -5B are the latest satellites for Turksat, an operator with three satellites currently in orbit. U.K. Export Finance said April 25 that Airbus’ contract, which includes the provision of a ground station, launch services and in-orbit delivery, is worth nearly $500 million.

“UKEF’s support is an important differentiator for companies exporting from the UK, helping them win international business as the government looks to realise the Export Strategy ambition to increase exports to 35% of GDP,” U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said in a statement.

U.K. Export Finance has generally been overshadowed by export credit agencies more active in the space industry such as BPIFrance (formerly Coface) Export Development Canada and, until 2015, the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

The U.S. Ex-Im Bank has been less active since its charter lapsed for six months in 2015 and its continued lack of a quorum needed to finance deals over $10 million — a threshold too low to have a meaningful impact on most telecommunications satellites.

U.K. Export Finance has voiced its desire to offer additional financial support for satellites, but didn’t have a notable example until now. In 2013, the agency provided 35.5 million pounds for a satellite sold to Russian Satellite Communications Co. in 2013, and 22 million pounds for a satellite to Malaysian operator Measat in 2014. Airbus was involved in both satellite projects.

Fox, speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow last year, said the British government was planning a “Space Exports Campaign” to support British companies. He highlighted the U.S. and India in those comments.

Turksat-5A is designed to be a 3,500-kilogram Ku-band satellite, with a launch in 2020. The larger, 4,500-kilogram Turksat-5B will carry Ku- and Ka-band payloads, and is expected to launch in 2021. Airbus has not announced launch providers for either satellite.

Airbus beat Space Systems Loral of Palo Alto, California, and Mitsubishi Electric of Japan to win the two-satellite Turksat order, first announced in October 2017 and closed a month later. Airbus said the two satellites will have “Turkish contribution[s]” in their production.

Both satellites will cover Turkey, the Middle East and portions of Africa.

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