Exclusive: Satellite image provider Maxar eyes sale of space robotics unit - sources

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© Reuters.  Exclusive: Satellite image provider Maxar eyes sale of space robotics unit - sources© Reuters. Exclusive: Satellite image provider Maxar eyes sale of space robotics unit - sources

By Mike Stone

(Reuters) - U.S. satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies Inc is exploring a sale of its space robotics business, which could fetch more than $1 billion and allow it to pay down some of its debt, according to people familiar with the matter.

The sale of the business, dubbed MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), would help address concerns about Maxar's $3.2 billion debt pile. Its WorldView-4 satellite failed in January, causing shares to slide.

MDA, which has helped construct part of the International Space Station, has about C$170 million ($127 million) in 12-month earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the people said, asking for anonymity because the matter is confidential.

"As a matter of company policy, Maxar does not comment on market rumors or speculation. As we have previously stated, the company is focused on strengthening our operational and financial performance, developing a strategy to drive long-term revenue, profit, and cash flow growth, and is assessing a variety of options to reduce leverage to achieve a more optimal capital structure for the company," Maxar said.

Headquartered in Westminster, Colorado, Maxar specializes in satellites for Earth imagery, geospatial data and analytics. It has a market capitalization of about $500 million.

MDA makes defense and maritime systems, radar geospatial imagery, space robotics, satellite antennas, and communication subsystems.

Maxar acquired U.S.-based satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe Inc for about C$3.1 billion in 2017, in a bid to boost its business supplying high-resolution images to customers such as the U.S. Department of Defense and companies including Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Uber Technologies (NYSE:UBER) Inc.

That deal was followed by a string of impairment charges, as its satellite business was plagued by cost overruns and supply chain issues.

In January, Maxar named Daniel Jablonsky president and chief executive to succeed Howard Lance "given the company's performance in 2018 and the loss of over 90% of our value in the marketplace." Jablonsky was previously president of DigitalGlobe.

Last month, NASA picked Maxar as the first contractor to help build its Gateway platform in lunar orbit, a crucial outpost for America's mission to relay astronauts to the moon in 2024.

Maxar Technologies will develop power, propulsion and communications components for the lunar mobile command and service module, NASA said.

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