May 14, 2020 / 5:15 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Eutelsat's sales fall as pandemic hits communications sector

(Adds detail on C-Band, quotes from call)

May 14 (Reuters) - French satellite company Eutelsat on Tuesday reported a 4.4% slump in third-quarter revenues as postponed sports events and reduced travel due to the coronavirus pandemic hit earnings.

The group, one of the world's major satellite service providers, reported sales in the quarter ended March 31 of 322 million euros ($348 million), down from 336.7 million euros in the same period of 2019.

Eutelsat's data and professional video division, which re-transmits sports for broadcast, saw revenues fall 6.1% year-on year.

Chief executive Rodolphe Belmer, speaking on a call, said the division "began to feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis during March, and this will have a deeper effect in the fourth quarter".

The group had already estimated it would take a 20 million euro hit from the pandemic when it revised down its 2019/20 sales outlook in April to around 1.25 billion euros.

Eutelsat, which is eligible to receive $507 million from a $9.7 billion incentive package to clear its C-Band spectrum to support the build-up of 5G wireless infrastructure in the United States, said it was confident in its ability to clear the airwaves by the prescribed deadline.

The C-band is a block of spectrum used by satellite company customers to deliver video and radio programming to 120 million U.S. households, and is seen as the most likely short-term source of available spectrum for next-generation 5G use.

Other companies which could participate in the clearing include Luxembourg's SES and Intelsat, which filed for bankruptcy late on Wednesday.

"In a sector weakened by both the technological transition and the health crisis, which is not specific to the sector, Eutelsat is very solid," Belmer said, adding that Eutelsat believed the satellite telecommunications sector would benefit from consolidation.

"The economic crisis, which is putting pressure on many members of the sector, will probably accentuate this."

$1 = 0.9255 euros Reporting by Sarah Morland in Gdansk; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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