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Lockheed's Loss in Space

It's estimated that there are somewhere near 5,000 satellites of the non-lunar variety orbiting the Earth today. Sunday, one had an electrical hiccup that apparently knocked out some communications services from the U.S. to parts of South America. Inconveniences aside, the problem could come with a multimillion-dollar price tag, but I'm not talking about the repair fee.

Intelsat, a satellite operator based in Bermuda, is in the process of negotiating a buyout with private equity firm Zeus Holdings. The deal had been priced at $3.1 billion for Intelsat and its 23 satellites in orbit. But that was before the accident. With one satellite gone, the deal could be off. Or, more likely, renegotiated. And that's what could cost Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) millions.

Lockheed holds a 24% stake in Intelsat, so a sale could reap more than $700 million for the firm at the current price. However, recent precedent suggests that the buyout will be steeply discounted. In August, DirecTV (NYSE: DTV  ) sold its stake in PanAmSat for 7% less than previously agreed when one of its satellites experienced technical problems the night before the company was to be acquired. Were a revised Intelsat deal modeled the same way, Lockheed would forfeit more than $50 million.

Though that's not good, any lost gain -- even the whole $700 million -- is little more than a rounding error for Lockheed. According to Yahoo! Finance, the firm annually generates $34 billion in sales and $2 billion in free cash flow.

In that sense, the incident underscores an important investing lesson. Being a diversified company, Lockheed bet a very small amount of its economic well-being on the success of Intelsat. Should your portfolio be any different, especially when it comes to the high-risk, high-reward nature of high-growth investing? Indeed not.

For more space-age Foolishness:

  • SpaceDev's engines literally burned rubber to help SpaceShipOne win the $10 million Ansari X Prize.
  • SpaceShipOne's technology is so cool, it tempted Virgin to start a 70-mile-high club.
  • Lockheed's stock has been gaining altitude recently; is it time for re-entry?

Fool contributor Tim Beyers has no position in any of the companies mentioned in this story, though he lives within spitting distance of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. You can view Tim's Fool profile and other stock holdings here.

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