Mourant joins stellar list of transatlantic firms on space broadband deal

Mourant Ozannes has completed work on the fundraising for a $1.2bn (£770m) space satellite programme aimed at providing internet connections to global developing markets.

The offshore firm was the sole Jersey counsel to Jersey company O3b throughout its two-year fundraising programme. Investors and shareholders including HSBC, Google and the Development Bank of Southern Africa have contributed to the financing.

The deal generated work for a number of firms. Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCoy was O3b’s US and UK counsel throughout the transaction while Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, White & Case and Allen & Overy (A&O) also picked up instructions.

The fundraising was divided into a number of different tranches. It comprised $510m and $115m senior debt facilities, a $145m mezzanine debt facility and $410m in equity financing.

White & Case London partner David Eisenberg acted for HSBC. A&O partners Mario Jacovides and Anne Baldock advised banks CA-CIB, HSBC France, Dexia and ING and some development finance institutions.

Satellite company SES has taken on the largest minority stake in O3b with a shareholding of 34 per cent, rising to 44 per cent over two years taking into account in-kind services, including commercial and engineering expertise. SES was advised by partner David Wilf in Gibson Dunn’s New York office.

O3b stands for the ’other three billion’, a reference to nearly half of the world’s population that is not adequately served with broadband internet access due to the absence of a backbone of super-fast fibre-optic-cable connections in many regions.

The capital raised will be used to build eight satellites, to be placed in orbit 8,000km from the Earth. The satellites will provide access to approximately 70 per cent of the world’s population with fibre quality internet connectivity.

A collection of banks and investors, including HSBC and Google, have provided the money that O3b needs to launch the venture’s first eight satellites. These will be constructed at a manufacturing facility in Cannes, with the first platforms ready to go into orbit in the first half of 2013.

Mourant partner Jonathan Walker said the firm had advised O3b on a full range of legal issues including company law and matters relating to the fundraising. Walker added Mourant associate John Leckie began working on the deal at the firm before being hired to join O3b’s in-house legal team, which is headed by general counsel Bill Lawrence.

“I’m very proud of this company as it’s a fantastic project,” Walker said.