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Why Intelsat Stock Just Dropped 11.5%

By Rich Smith - Feb 28, 2020 at 1:18PM

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The FCC just called Intelsat's bluff.

What happened

With most of its assets orbiting miles above Earth, safe in the sterile void of space, you might expect a company like Intelsat (INTE.Q) to be more or less safe and immune to catching the COVID-19 coronavirus. And yes, Intelsat should be safe from the effects of this disease.

Unfortunately, Intelsat is not safe from the FCC. The stock's 11.5% decline through 1 p.m. EST proves it.

Androgynous character upset at red stock down arrow

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

By now you're probably familiar with the Intelsat saga. Years ago, the company acquired the rights to use C-band spectrum to broadcast its satellite signals. Now, the U.S. government -- specifically the FCC -- wants to reclaim that spectrum, auction it off to companies who want to use it for 5G internet, and then keep most of estimated $77 billion in proceeds for itself, making current C-band holders such as Intelsat split a $9.7 billion pittance.

Intelsat's take from this auction was supposed to be $4.85 billion, but last week, the company intimated that it might try to negotiate a higher fee.

Today, the FCC called Intelsat's bluff. As Reuters reports, the FCC voted 3-2 to limit the take of satellite companies to the aforementioned $9.7 billion.  

Now what

It seems that Intelsat will indeed get stuck with only the aforementioned $4.85 billion sum -- which won't make much of a dent in the company's $14 billion net-debt load, by the way.

Once again, the ball is Intelsat's court. Will the company drag its heels on implementing the FCC's orders in a play to get the Commission to reconsider its vote? Will Intelsat take the Commission to court, demanding fairer compensation? Or might Intelsat even play its trump card and file for bankruptcy, to show how serious it is about needing more money to survive?

Stay tuned, Fools. As soon as we know, you'll know.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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