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Maritime Connectivity: Acquisitions Take Center Stage

Over the last two months, the maritime and offshore satellite connectivity market has been sparked with a bout of merger and acquisition activities.

ViaSat to acquire Rignet
In late December 2020, ViaSat announced an agreement to acquire RigNet, an American energy connectivity provider for approximately $222 million. It is believed RigNet’s customer base in the energy market is of strong interest to ViaSat, with the upcoming launch of ViaSat-3, a new constellation of three satellites.

About RigNet
Founded in 2001, RigNet is a US-based service provider of connectivity services, applications and cybersecurity solutions primarily for the offshore oil, gas and energy market. The company is headquartered in Houston (USA) and also has offices in the UK, Singapore, Brazil and another US office in Louisiana. It employs roughly 650 staff globally.

In its latest publicly released financials, Q3 2020, the firm recorded revenues of almost $161 million for the first nine months of 2020, down by $18 million from the same period in 2019. RigNet recorded a net loss of $36.5 million for the same period in 2020, almost double of that in 2019. Not exactly a rosy trajectory over the last two years.

The company divides its business into four segments: managed communications services (MCS), applications and IoT, systems integration, and corporate with its biggest segment, MCS, suffering in 2020 compared to 2019.

However, not all is doom and gloom when RigNet, in October 2020, announced a multiple-year contract with an undisclosed offshore drilling contractor to provide fully MCS and global satellite access to its entire global drilling fleet. The new contract also includes RigNet’s machine learning platform, Intelie, and other supplementary applications, intelligence, and network security solutions.

One key challenges the company has faced is the diminishing number of sites that it manages for MCS; a count in Q3 2020 noted 1,190 sites compared to 1,229 in Q2 2020. In Q3 2019, the firm held 1,386 sites.

Valour’s Take
In Valour’s opinion, the justifications for ViaSat intent to purchase RigNet is not some paradigm leap in market growth or unseen grab of untapped assets.

The move is relatively simple one. RigNet provides a relatively steady business in an uncertain business environment, the energy sector, at the moment.

It allows ViaSat to slowly grow its nascent maritime connectivity proposition and meld it with RigNet’s well-known managed communications services business.

This business has a reasonable array of customers, 500 companies, which encompasses 369 offshore production sites, 173 maritime vessels and a number of other sites.

Finally, one of the main quotes of the great Warren Buffet, always try and buy under-priced assets. At the moment, most energy related companies are relatively lowly priced.

Marlink proposed acquisition of ITC Global
Marlink Group, owned by Apax Partners (France), has signed an agreement to acquire 100 per cent of ITC Global, a maritime and energy service provide owned by Panasonic. The value of the deal as yet to be disclosed, if it ever will.

My question is what value ITC Global brings to Marlink Group, the leading retail maritime service provider?

ITC Global
ITC Global is an American satellite-based communications provider which primarily serves the energy, mining, maritime, and NGO markets. The company was originally set up in 2001 and has its headquarters in Houston, Texas. Interestingly, the firm was acquired by Panasonic in 2015 and now operates as a subsidiary of the Japanese company.

In January 2020, ITC Global partnered with Inmarsat to expand its service to providing Ka-band coverage to energy, maritime and yachting customers. The five-year strategic partnership means ITC Global will act as a reseller for FX. ITC Global’s parent company, Panasonic Avionics, signed a similar agreement with Inmarsat in 2018 to provide inflight connectivity.

Valour’s Take
Marlink Group’s potential acquisition of ITC Global is an interesting move within the maritime connectivity sphere.
Not to second guess Marlink’s case, the firm’s maritime satellite connectivity solution, SeaLink, has made remarkable progress in recent years. Over 2020, the firm increased its SeaLink vessel count by 1,000 from 2019.

That said, Marlink Group, in the past, has not been shy to purchase some key players; OmniAccess, Telemar Group, Radio Holland’s VSAT distribution business over 2016 and 2017. Nonetheless, Marlink has strategised a strong surge of organic growth since.

The proposed purchase of ITC highlights two things. Firstly, this period of organic growth has possibly to come to an end. In the Sigmoid Curve, there are critical phases. Development, introduction, growth, maturity and decline. To arrest the decline, it is vital to catch the next opportunity on the rise, before the current one fells. I believe we are in a spell of acquisitions and mergers within the industry with companies scoping out potential suitors and targets.

Marlink Group is very well known for its presence in the maritime connectivity commercial merchant market, and high-end leisure. As such, ITC Global’s strong maritime offshore energy, passenger and enterprise customer base provides Marlink group with a new market segment to master.

Looking at this from other side of the fence, in my opinion, Panasonic Group has conducted a thorough review of its business operations over the last twelve months. This will indubitably entailed picking which businesses and operations will see the group through, in the long term. Unfortunately, it would seem, Panasonic doesn’t see ITC Global as a long term fit for its business portfolio.

Finally, with the downturn of the energy sector, and speculating that Panasonic were looking for an exit plan in maritime, Marlink Group will likely achieve a very good deal price for ITC Global.

What’s next
It is predicted we will see three more notable mergers and acquisitions over the course of 2021.

Source: Joshua Flood, Senior Research Consultant, ValourLtd

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