SES Astra JV sees North African satellite TV demand rising

Investment

A Middle East joint venture with SES Astra, a unit of European satellite operator SES, said it expects to generate revenues in its third year on growing regional demand for high-definition television.

YahLive, a joint venture with Abu Dhabi's Al Yah Satellite Communications Co (Yahsat), plans to launch its first satellite and offer direct-to-home satellite television services from the fourth quarter of 2009, Chief Executive Jassem al-Zaabi said.Yahsat, which is launching two satellites in 2010 and 2011, is wholly owned by Abu Dhabi investment firm Mubadala and holds 65 percent of YahLive.

Satellite TV penetration in the Middle East, North Africa and southwest Asia is about 70 percent, Zaabi said.

"The market will grow 38 percent per annum with about 100-plus high definition channels to be added in the region by 2017," Zaabi told reporters late on Wednesday."A big chunk of our capacity will be utilised between the third and fifth year which will yield revenues." SES Astra is investing $50 million in the project while Yahsat will invest around $100 million, Zaabi said.

SES Astra Chief Executive Ferdinand Kayser added that the Middle East was one of the "key growth markets" for SES. Yahsat's two satellites are being built at a cost of $1.6 billion by a consortium of EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space.