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UAE’s Thuraya subject of Chinese bid, but denies any talks are underway

Thuraya’s headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photograph courtesy of Thuraya.

Peter B. de Selding, the former international correspondent of Space News, reports in his new venture SpaceIntelReport.com, that Hong Kong-based company China Trends Holdings Ltd. is considering buying Dubai-based satellite communications company Thuraya for U.S.$201 million.

Within days of the announcement by China Trends Holdings Ltd., Thuraya issued a statement denying that any talks with the Hong Kong company had even taken place. In a statement issued to SpaceIntelReport.com, a Thuraya spokesperson said: “Thuraya has never had any discussion of any kind with China Trends. There is considerable interest in Thuraya’s products and services from around the globe, and this was enhanced recently by September’s announcement that our next generation capability plans have been finalized. While we are certainly aware of the attention Thuraya has been gaining, as has been evident during our ongoing fundraising activities, it is worth stating that we do not have any exclusivity agreement in place with any company.”

If talks do take place between Thuraya and China Trends Holdings Ltd. then any sale of the Dubai-based company would be subject to UAE and U.S. regulatory and policy hurdles. According to China Trends Holdings Ltd., any purchase of Thuraya will only be agreed if it can be assured that these hurdles can be overcome.

One of the hurdles in question stems from Thuraya’s American connections that make it subject to U.S. International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR). At present, U.S. space companies – including U.S. companies with links to foreign companies like Thuraya – must seek U.S. government approval to have any dealings, even indirect ones, with Chinese companies. In the case of Thuraya, a Florida-based copany called SRT Wireless is a partner that provides satellite equipment.

Should discussions about the sale of Thuraya take place, it would be the second attempted purchase of a Middle Eastern satellite communications company by a Chinese entity within the past six months. In August 2016 it was revealed that Beijing Xinwei Technology Group Co. Ltd., a Chinese telecommunications company, was in talks with Israeli company Spacecom to buy it out. Those discussions are still ongoing in light of the loss of Spacecom’s AMOS-6 satellite when it was destroyed after a SpaceX Falcon-9 space launch vehicle blew up on its launch pad on 1 September 2016.

It is unclear whether the potential Chinese purchases of two Middle East satellite communications providers has any cohesive strategic rationale at this point, though there is some speculation that the atttempted acquisitions could be part of an effort to provide connectivity across land, sea, and air for China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

Original published at: http://spacewatchme.com/2017/01/uaes-thuraya-subject-chinese-bid-denies-talks-underway/

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