Monday, April 27, 2009

Satellite telephony: an attempt to revive satellite to reach unserviced areas

[WSJ] Harbinger Capital Partners founder Philip Falcone is pressing forward with a multibillion-dollar plan to build an international satellite-cellphone business, even as he tries to battle back from steep losses in his hedge funds.

It is an unusually bold project given the conservative mood on Wall Street, where investors are shying away from big, risky bets. But Mr. Falcone is a strong believer in the technology, which would add satellite capabilities into cellphones, providing coverage in dead spots and eventually allowing business travelers to use their devices globally.

Mr. Falcone has been pushing the idea since before his once-booming funds ran into trouble. In recent months, he has been trying to raise as much as $1.6 billion in strategic financing for the project, people familiar with the situation say, but it has been challenging to attract capital for an idea that would have been tough to pull off even in good times.

Google Inc. and News Corp. are among the companies that have been approached, but so far they haven't committed funding, the people familiar with the matter say. Mr. Falcone is in discussions now with a range of other potential strategic investors, including wireless carriers, the people say. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., which publishes The Wall Street Journal.

He is also prepared to put up as much as $1 billion through Harbinger, possibly through a new private-equity-style fund he is in the process of raising, the people say. Korean conglomerate SK Holdings Co. is a major investor in that fund, which has a five-year lock-up for investors, one of the people said. SK Holdings may also take a role as strategic partner in the venture. SK Holdings didn't respond to a request for comment.

Satellite Phone Plan Aims High

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