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Hanwha Systems invests $300 million in UK satellite firm OneWeb

The deal marks the conglomerate’s first big investment since the launch in March of group-wide task force Space Hub

By Aug 12, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Hanwha invests in OneWeb to tap into the commercial space market.
Hanwha invests in OneWeb to tap into the commercial space market.

Hanwha Systems Co., the defense and air mobility unit of Hanwha Group, is investing $300 million in UK’s satellite communications firm OneWeb as the South Korean company expands its presence in the growing commercial space market.

With the investment, Hanwha will be acquiring 250,000 shares of OneWeb for an 8.8% stake, the company said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.

The deal will be completed by the first half of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals by both countries. Upon completion, Hanwha will also have a seat on OneWeb’s board.

Established in 2012, OneWeb is a multinational global communications company building a capability to deliver broadband satellite internet services worldwide.

Currently operating 254 satellites in low-earth orbit, the London-based company aims to deploy a total of 648 satellites by the end of 2022 to offer broadband services across the globe.

The company has a satellite manufacturing facility in Florida, a joint venture with Airbus Defence and Space, a unit of Airbus SE.

Last year, OneWeb was rescued from bankruptcy by the UK government and Indian telecom company Bharti Global with a joint $1 billion bailout.

Bharti is OneWeb’s largest shareholder with a 38.6% stake. Other shareholders include Japan’s internet giant SoftBank, US antenna maker Hughes Network Systems and French satellite operator Eutelsat.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises, said Hanwha is a “powerful partner” for the satellite group.

Kim Youn-chul, chief executive of Hanwha Systems, said in a statement: “To OneWeb’s vision of connecting all the people across the globe, Hanwha’s satellite and antenna technology will bring more advantages.”

Hanwha Group's heir apparent Kim Dong-kwan and its air taxi prototype
Hanwha Group's heir apparent Kim Dong-kwan and its air taxi prototype

HANWHA’S SPACE HUB

Hanwha’s latest deal marks the conglomerate's first massive investment since its launch in March of Space Hub, a group-wide task force handling all future mobility-related projects.

The task force is led by Kim Dong-kwan, the eldest son of Hanwha Chairman Kim Seung-youn and the group’s heir apparent. The junior Kim is also the chief executive of Hanwha Solutions Corp., the energy unit of Hanwha Group.

Hanwha has been active in tapping into the commercial space market projected by Morgan Stanley to grow to $1.1 trillion by 2040 from $348 billion in 2017.

Last December, Hanwha Systems invested 33.2 billion won in Kymeta Corp., a US satellite communications firm, following its 30% stake purchase of US air taxi startup Overair to expand its urban air mobility (UAM) business earlier in 2020.

In partnership with Overair, Hanwha Systems is developing Butterfly, a personal air vehicle.

Hanwha is also seeking to establish a “verti-hub,” a city terminal for the takeoff and landing of air taxis, at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul in cooperation with Korea Airports Corp.

Hanwha's Butterfly, a personal air vehicle
Hanwha's Butterfly, a personal air vehicle

To ramp up the satellite business, the Hanwha unit acquired Phasor Solutions, a British satellite communication antenna company in 2020.

On Thursday, Hanwha Systems said in a separate regulatory filing that it is acquiring $30 million in convertible bonds issued by Overair to tighten its UAM partnership.

Flying cars are emerging as a future system of travel to avoid traffic jams on urban roads, and the Korean government aims to launch commercial services as early as 2025.

Write to Kyung-Min Kang at Kkm1026@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.
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