Friday 20 November 2020 3:37 pm

Satellite firm Oneweb relaunched after UK government bailout

Troubled satellite firm Oneweb has formally emerged from bankruptcy after it was rescued from collapse by the UK government and Indian billionaire Sunil Bharti Mittal.

The low earth orbit satellite firm today said it has left Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is now targeting a return to flight on 17 December.

Read more: Government’s satellite startup Oneweb to restart launches in December

It comes after the company secured a $1bn (£753m) cash injection from the government and Mittal’s Bharti Global conglomerate.

Oneweb will now seek further funding to help complete its constellation of satellites, which it hopes will provide global internet services by 2022.

The company, which will remain headquartered in the UK, also said it has appointed former Thomson Reuters co-chief operating officer Neil Masterson as its new boss.

He takes over from Adrian Steckel, who will continue as an advisor to the board.

In a tweet this afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johsnon described the takeover as “fantastic news”.

“This strategic investment will drive our space sector and put the UK at the forefront of space tech,” he wrote. “A terrific boost to our advanced manufacturing, services and tech industries.”

Under the terms of the deal, the UK government and Bharti have each invested $500m and will jointly hold a stake of more than 80 per cent. The remainder will be owned by existing investors, including Airbus and Softbank.

The bailout marks the UK’s efforts to become a leader in the nascent satellite communications sector, which is designed to bring internet services to remote areas across the globe.

Read more: MP accuses government of ‘interference’ in inquiry into Oneweb takeover

Oneweb has already launched 74 satellites and is planning to launch a further 36 next month. Its target is to launch a constellation of 650 satellites by the end of 2022.

But the company is facing competition from several deep-pocketed US rivals, including Amazon and Elon Musk’s Space X.