Despite a corporate history that could be charitably described as convoluted, PanAmSat Holding
Turning to the present, PanAmSat missed its estimates for the first quarter -- something not usually looked favorably upon by investors in the newly minted IPO world. That's not to say that business was bad, though. Revenue climbed about 1.6% and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) grew 6.1% for the quarter, while a year-ago loss of $0.07 per share was turned into a $0.01 gain.
I know, I know... some of you are no doubt saying, "Wait a minute? A space business only growing at 2%? What gives?" Well, PanAmSat derives most of its business from its fixed satellite service segment -- a business that is by and large predictable and steady, but not necessarily high-growth. The "trick" with PanAmSat is that the cash flow and operating cash flow grew 26% on a year-over-year basis for the first quarter.
While the company has a good record of generating cash, things could get even better, and high-definition television (HDTV) is why. PanAmSat already has about 70% of the market for HDTV cable delivery, and in the U.S., HDTV is still largely in its infancy. Nevertheless, revenue from program distribution and video service grew over 8% in the first quarter, and as more and more people sign up for HDTV, PanAmSat stands to benefit.
Now, that's not to say that it's a risk-free slam dunk and everybody should go buy shares today (and of course, loyal Fool readers would never do that without doing their own due diligence first). While the company repaid over $600 million of debt through April, it still has a whopping debt load, and interest payments will probably suck away over $200 million in cash during the year.
There are also the risks that go along with the business itself. Space can be unforgiving and unpredictable, and though the company has 23 satellites in orbit, a nasty solar storm or equipment malfunction could drop some from that roster without any real warning.
Risks aside, I'm keeping an eye on this stock. I do believe that HDTV is going to take off in America, and PanAmSat is clearly leveraged to benefit from that. What's more, the company's in a good enough cash-generating position today to pay down debt, fund capital expenditures, and still pay a fair dividend. As time goes on and debt repayment continues, more and more of that cash flow should become available to expand the business or expand shareholders' wallets, or both.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).