When you're really working out in the middle of nowhere, grab that sat phone and call up Globalstar. The company provides satellite voice and data services to remote areas underserved by traditional wireless and wireline services. Its network of 44 satellites and 27 ground stations provides service to more than 400,000 subscribers worldwide. The US government accounts for about a quarter of revenue, and enterprise customers include companies in the energy, maritime, and mining industries with job sites underground or out at sea. Half of its ground stations are operated by independent companies that buy Globalstar's services on a wholesale basis. North America is the company's largest market.
Globalstar was a profitable company until 2007, when its satellites in orbit began to fail. The failures affected two-way voice and data communications - calls weren't going through, and when they did, their duration didn't last and users' calls were dropped. The company believes the satellites' outages were caused by exposure to radiation while in orbit. Globalstar operates low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which are nearer to the earth's surface than other satellites, and thus other orbiting satellites were not affected.
Sales dropped 35% by 2009 and the company recorded net losses two years in a row. Facing the possibility of completely losing two-way voice and data service, Globalstar launched eight spare satellites and appointed turnaround specialist Peter J. Dalton as CEO in 2009. Under Dalton's direction, Globalstar reduced operating costs and announced plans to relocate its headquarters from California to Louisiana in 2011 with about $8 million in state incentives.
The company's plan to launch 24 second-generation satellites is right on target at a cost of about $1.4 billion, mostly to Thales. Its first six new satellites are scheduled to launch in October 2010 with a lifespan of 15 years (its previous satellites, launched in 1998, began to fail after nine years).
The company turned to the consumer market to offset the revenue impact from its disrupted two-way service. It began selling a handheld GPS navigation system called SPOT for adventure travelers or anyone needing a GPS device. SPOT is sold at major retailers for about $150; annual plans cost about the same. In 2009 Globalstar bought the assets of GPS asset-tracking and messaging products maker Axonn for $1.5 million in cash and $5.5 million in shares. The deal served to reduce Globalstar's manufacturing expenses because Axonn makes SPOT. It also manufacturers other data transmission products which Globalstar hopes will appeal to its existing satellite service customers.
Through Globalstar Holdings and other entities, chairman Jay Monroe owns about 70% of Globalstar, Inc.
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