Worldspace, scrive il Wall Street Journal, non ce l’ha fatta. Dopo il warning annunciato diversi mesi in seguito alla pesante situazione debitoria, l’operatore satellitare che dovrebbe lanciare in Europa, a incominciare dall’Italia, nuovi servizi di pay radio digitale, è entrato in Chapter 11, la legge fallimentare americana. Le aziende in Chapter 11 possono avvalersi di uno scudo protettivo del tribunale contro i debitori per il periodo necessario a trovare i soldi. Worldspace conta di uscirne vendendo l’azienda o ricapitalizzando, cioè trovando nuovi investitori. Mi sembrano entrambe due ipotesi improbabili. L’operatore ha più di 2 miliardi di dollari di debito e deve a una cinquantina di dipendenti oltre un milioni di dollari di stipendi. I suoi 170.000 abbonati in Asia e Africa certo non bastano a sostenerlo. E ora che ne sarà dei progetti italiani? Lo chiederei volentieri all’addetto stampa di Worldspace Italia, ma da qualche settimana quello che conoscevo io ha lasciato il suo posto. La situazione si è fatta a dir poco complessa.
WorldSpace Files for Bankruptcy, Listing $2.12 Billion in Debt
By ERIC MORATH
WorldSpace Inc., a Maryland-based operator of satellite radio services overseas, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday after repeated failures to meet debt obligations and to pay its employees.
The company, which broadcasts its satellite radio services to more than 170,000 paid subscribers in 10 countries throughout Europe, Africa and Asia, sought Chapter 11 protection in the U.S Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. It listed assets of $307.4 million and liabilities of $2.12 billion.
The bulk of that debt, some $1.8 billion, is a contingent obligation under a royalty deal if the company’s pretax earnings reach a certain level, according to company spokeswoman Judith Pryor.
In court papers, Chief Executive Noah A. Samara said the company was forced to file for bankruptcy after seeking four forbearance agreements with its noteholders since June.
In addition, WorldSpace has failed to pay some of its workers for two months, causing “significant employee attrition,” Mr. Samara said. The company owes 50 “critical employees” $1.35 million in back pay.
“As a result of WorldSpace’s growing concern regarding its inability to make timely payments to critical employees and other essential creditors, WorldSpace determined that it is in its best interests and the best interests of its subsidiaries and stakeholders to file these chapter 11 proceedings,” said Mr. Samara, one of the key figures in the early stages of XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc.
The company, which intends to sell off its assets or recapitalize the business, is seeking court approval of a $13 million bankruptcy loan provided by a group of hedge funds to continue operating while under bankruptcy-court protection.
Worldspace was founded in 1990 with the intent to provide satellite radio services to the emerging markets of Asia and Africa. The company has two satellites currently in orbit and a third in storage.
Among the WorldSpace’s so called first-day motions the company is asking to secure the bankruptcy loan and use some of that funding to pay its employees. The company is also seeking the continued use of its bank accounts.
Without the bankruptcy financing, the remaining critical employees will likely depart, which would “impair” WorldSpace’s ability to operate the satellites and continue as a going concern, Samara said.
Yenura Pte. Ltd., a Singapore-based company controlled by Mr. Samara, is WorldSpace’s largest unsecured creditor, owed $55.2 million. Number 2 is Micronas GmbH, owed $18.2 million, and Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, owed $4.4 million.
Mr. Samara is the largest shareholder of the Silver Spring, Md. company, owning 47.15% of the firm. Aletheia Research & Management Inc., owning 37% percent, and Natixis Asset Management Advisor LP, owning 5.25%, are the other major shareholders of WorldSpace.