PARIS — Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is selling a majority stake in geospatial-imagery provider ImageSat International to private-equity investor FIMI of Israel in a deal that values ImageSat’s equity at $74.6 million, IAI announced Nov. k6.
Under the transaction, which still must clear Israeli Ministry of Defense and Antitrust Authority review, ImageSat will purchase from IAI the Eros-C high-resolution optical imaging satellite, scheduled for launch in 2019, and will pay IAI $35 million to settle a portion of an outstanding loan.
FIMI is paying IAI $40 million for 53.6% of ImageSat and will receive preferred stock.
IAI officials in recent months have expressed frustration that their satellite product line, known for providing high image resolution in a low-weight satellite package, had not been more successful. In fact the entire market for high-end imaging satellites has been in a lull in the past couple of years.
It was not immediately clear how things would change for ImageSat now that a large private-equity investor is in the driver’s seat.
FIMI Senior Partner Gillon Beck, in a statement accompanying the transaction’s announccement, said:
“Satellites in general, including the observation satellites market in which ISI [ImageSat] is active; and the communications satellites market, in which we are present through our investments in companies such as Gilat and Orbit, offer significant growth potential. ISI has interesting growth engines such as data and algorithm-based productions.
“The collaboration between IAI and FIMI will help ISI soar to new heights in space.”
IAI Chief Executive Joseph Weiss said IAI would remain a sizable shareholder in ImageSat and that the sale is party of IAIs “strategy to create collaborations with business and financial entities, sin off technologies to the civilian sector and prioritize investments for innovation and technological entrepreneurship.
“Under the deal, IAI remains a material shareholder of ISI and is expected to benefit also from the incremental value expected to surface as a result of the investment. IAI continually reviews opportunities for civilian applications of military technologies through collaboration with synergetic organizations,” Weiss said.
IAI has declined to disclose the precise technical characteristics of Eros-C but ImageSathas said it would match the highest-resolution commercial geospatial imagery satellite on the market. That would be U.S.-based DigitalGlobe’s WorldView 3 and WorldView 4 satellites.
In addition, Airbus Defend and Space has ordered four satellites, called Pleiades Neo, for its use of its own geospatial images company and has said it would be the equal of the DigitalGlobe offer. These satellites are scheduled for launch in 2020.
ImageSat’s principal weakness compared to its competitors is the lack of a constellation in orbit to increase temporal resolution — revisit time between overflights of a given area.