Monday, April 22, 2013

Norsat acquires US-based SatCom

          by Brian Orlotti
Canada's first private Earth station in Whitehorse, NWT in July 1977. Photo c/o the NORSAT history page.

Following in the footsteps of BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA), another Canadian space technology firm has been looking south for opportunities and growth in the face of Canadian space stagnation.

As announced in an April 17th, 2013 press release under the title "Norsat Acquires US-Based Communications Business," on the company website, Richmond, BC-based Norsat International Inc., a provider of ground and satellite-based communications gear, has purchased the assets of a small (and as yet unnamed) US satellite telecom firm. Norsat will pay $530,170 USD and will finance the transaction with cash from operations.

The acquired assets include new products that will give Norsat access to new segments of the satellite communications market including solid state power amplifiers (SSPAs), high power block upconverters (BUCs), SATCOM baseband kits and micro-satellite terminals (terminals with antenna sizes below 1 metre).
Current NORSAT CEO Amiee Chan is a notable satellite communications engineer who has worked on high-level NASA research projects such as the the NASA Advanced Communications Technology Satellite ( ACTS) terminal program.

Strategically, this acquisition is consistent with Norsat's ongoing growth strategy. Through it, we will broaden our portfolio of products and services, and the solutions we provide to customers. The expanded sales team and larger product range it brings will enable us to address new market opportunities in the US and around the world. Accordingly, we believe the acquisition will create strong value and has the potential to be accretive to shareholders,” said Dr. Amiee Chan, President and CEO of Norsat.

In an earlier, April 8th, 2013 press release titled "Norsat introduces new microwave products for airborne and Ka multi-band applications," the company announced the introduction of new commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and custom microwave products for airborne and Ka-band applications. These newly launched microwave products are used in satellite signal transmission and reception, and include block up/down converters (BUCs and BDCs), and low noise blockdownconverters (LNBs).

Norsat demoed these new products at the recently concluded National Association of Broadcasters (NAB 2013) trade show in Las Vegas.

The company was founded in 1977 as Northern Satellite Systems (NSS). Founder Rod Wheeler started the company with a then-innovative idea; to build the first affordable consumer satellite dish. From his cabin in Whitehorse, Yukon, Wheeler built a prototype satellite dish out of chicken wire and aluminum foil. This dish helped launch the company into the satellite market.

Norsat’s current products and services include production and support of portable satellite terminals, microwave transmission gear, terrestrial microwave networks, antennas, radio frequency (RF) conditioning gear, maritime-based satellite terminals and remote network connectivity solutions. Through its Norsat Power Solutions subsidiary, Norsat also provides power conversion and energy storage solutions for the communications, transportation and resource sectors.

Norsat’s recent moves highlight the continuing trend in the Canadian space sector towards concentration of resources and expansion into new markets. Along with its Richmond neighbor MDA, Norsat appears to be a part of a growing cluster of excellence wrapped around the Aerospace Technology Campus of the British Columbia Institute of Technology (also in Richmond).

Norsat’s expansion into the US notwithstanding, it remains to be seen whether its joining a cluster of like-minded firms will spur growth at home. Expect more information to come out during the annual meeting of Norsat shareholders on May 8th, in Vancouver.

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