ETRE: Teledesic hints at Iridium stake

Teledesic, the low earth orbit satellite company co-founded by Bill Gates, might have some cash to help the troubled Iridium satellite telephone and paging venture, its CEO has hinted.

In his speech to the ETRE conference today, Bill Owens, co-CEO and vice-chairman of Teledesic, hinted that the satellite company just might have some cash to help the troubled Iridium LLC satellite telephone and paging venture.

Teledesic, which was co-founded by Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and has partnerships with Boeing, Lockheed and Motorola, is a start-up looking to launch a LEO (low-earth orbit) system to bring fiber-like bandwidth for low-cost Internet access all over the globe. That service isn't expected to be launched until 2003 or 2004, Owens said.

Until Teledesic can deliver its own service, "there are a variety of early revenue options," Owens said.

Because of its backers, Teledesic is in a position to invest in other companies, Owens said.

"There is an advantage of having a lot of cash. And there are a lot of satellite companies in trouble we could help," Owens said.

Iridium already has a network of 66 LEO satellites and clearly comes under the definition of "troubled" after having defaulted on two loans last August, a US$800 million loan as well as another $750 million guaranteed bank loan for a total of US$1.5 billion.

Owens then specifically mentioned Iridium, saying that it was a good company for which Teledesic had a lot of respect , but he stopped short of outright saying that his company would invest in or purchase Iridium.

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