The number of operational 36 MHz-equivalent transponders stood at 1,418 at 31 March 2019, broadly stable versus end- December and slightly down year-on-year, mainly reflecting the disposal of Eutelsat 25B in August 2018.
The number of utilised transponders stood at 960, down 10 units versus end-December. Year-on-year they were up by nine units on a reported basis and up by 17 excluding the disposal of Eutelsat 25B. The evolution versus end-December principally reflects lower Fixed Data volumes in Latin America. On a year-on-year basis this was more than offset by new contracts in Video as well as the ramp-up at 174°East.
As a result the fill rate stood at 67.7% at end-March 2019 compared to 66.8% one year ago and 68.3% at end-December 2018.
During the third quarter, ending on. March 31, Video Applications revenues were down by 2.5% to €215.4 million, on a year-on-year basis. This reflected mostly an accelerated, double-digit decline in Professional Video in a context of intensifying competitive pressure. Professional Video now accounts for less than 8% of Video revenues. Pure Broadcast revenues were stable.
On a quarter-on-quarter basis, total Video revenues were stable while Broadcast revenues recorded a slight rise.
On the commercial front, a multi-transponder contract was secured for a new DTH platform on Eutelsat 65 West A. On the other hand, other projects in the pipeline were delayed for non-structural reasons and should materialize in the near future.
At 31 March 2019 the total number of channels broadcast by Eutelsat satellites stood at 7,021, up 2.0% year-on-year and by 3.0% stripping out the effect of the disposal of EUTELSAT 25B. HD penetration rose by 11% to 1,509 channels, implying a penetration of 21.5% of channels compared to 19.7% a year earlier.
Rodolphe Belmer, Chief Executive Officer, commented: “The Third Quarter of 2018-19 saw the return to growth in Broadcast on a quarter-on-quarter basis, an improvement in the US Government renewal rate and commercial wins in Maritime Mobility. The Konnect Africa broadband service is showing positive indications of demand but its ramp-up has been significantly hindered by some short-term operational issues. Moreover, we are experiencing softer conditions in Fixed Data and Professional Video. In consequence, revenues for the Operating Verticals at the nine month stage stood at -3%, and we now expect the outturn for FY 2018-19 to be in a similar range, versus our previous objective of ‘broadly stable’.
“We are encouraged by the resilience of our core Broadcast business, and we continue to target a return to slight revenue growth in FY 2019-20 on the back of the materialisation of delayed business, traction in broadband and the availability of incremental capacity with Eutelsat 7C and Eutelsat Quantum. All other financial objectives for the current and following years are also confirmed.
“Market conditions continue to support the pertinence of the focus on Discretionary Free Cash Flow generation implemented three years ago, and on which we continue to draw on all levers. In this context, our strengthened group is well placed to benefit from the next growth cycle in our industry driven notably by Fixed Broadband and Mobility. Finally, the outcome of discussions on tax territoriality treatment will lead to significant reduction in our annual tax burden.”
Results of the satellite operator were helped by the outcome of discussions on tax territoriality treatment to secure a reduction of the order of €70m in its annual tax burden, subject to final formal approval by French Tax administration.