Amazon circles bankrupt OneWeb ahead of rescue bid deadline

Amazon is circling crashed satellite company OneWeb, the British firm backed by Sir Richard Branson and SoftBank, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The e-commerce giant is understood to be among the firms sifting through OneWeb’s data room as the UK-headquartered company, which filed for bankruptcy in the US in March, conducts a firesale.

It joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and France’s Eutelsat in conducting due diligence on OneWeb’s assets ahead of a deadline late on Monday for expressions of interest. 

A bidder could still try to buy the whole company and at least two parties are understood to be interested. Another option is buying choice assets, the most valuable of which is OneWeb’s wireless spectrum which analysts have said could be worth up to $1bn (£800m).

OneWeb was once valued at more than $3bn ranking it as a technology “unicorn” and a pioneer in plans to build a web of hundreds of broadband satellites providing blanket mobile phone coverage across the earth. But after Japan’s SoftBank, its biggest investor, pulled out of a $2bn funding deal in March it was forced to file for bankruptcy protection and lay off nearly all its staff. 

Amazon has its own ambitions for low-earth orbit satellites. The online retailer is developing Project Kupier, a plan for more than 3,000 internet satellites. It also has a rocket business called Blue Origin. Starlink, a similar venture from SpaceX, has launched 400 small satellites.

Number 10, meanwhile, has been considering a proposal from OneWeb for a loan understood to be worth several hundred million pounds. OneWeb’s head office is in White City, but it has manufacturing in Florida and could relocate its operations to the UK as part of a deal. However, industry insiders warned such a bailout could raise concerns from rival UK space companies.

This week, a US court cleared the way for $300m “debtor in possession” funding for OneWeb. Such funding is provided by investors as part of bankruptcy proceedings to secure a sale of assets. 

Shagun Sachdeva, an analyst Northern Sky Research, said: “The interest in parts of OneWeb on the ground makes sense for any player currently planning a constellation. The challenge will be to sell the assets that are already in orbit.”

OneWeb, Amazon, SpaceX and Eutelsat declined to comment. Space Intel Report first revealed SpaceX and Eutelsat’s interest.

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