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President Bush on Oct. 25 signed a bill into law that frees Inmarsat Ventures, PLC and Intelsat Ltd. from a federal requirement to launch initial public offerings on a government-mandated schedule. U.S. lawmakers earlier this month passed legislation that would exempt the satellite companies from a requirement in the Open-Market Reorganization for the Betterment of International Telecommunications Act, or ORBIT ACT, ordering them to go public. Inmarsat, launched in 1979, is a London-based supplier of telecom services for maritime, aeronautical and fleet industries, and Intelsat, formed in 1964, is a Bermuda-based provider of Internet, television and phone services. Congress passed the ORBIT Act in 2000 to remedy concerns that the satellite companies had an unfair competitive advantage over private satellite operators because they were largely owned by former telecom monopolies such as France T�l�com SA, Telenor ASA and Deutsche Telekom. Having to go public under a government-directed schedule could have complicated investment plans by U.S. and European private equity firms that have invested billions of dollars to acquire the companies. ORBIT required the partially state-owned shareholders of Intelsat and Inmarsat to sell their stakes to private buyers and then complete IPOs. On Oct. 8., after being approved by lawmakers in the House and Senate, the legislation moved to the White House for final passage. Apax Partners Worldwide LLP and Permira Advisers Ltd. bought Inmarsat last year for $1.5 billion. Earlier this year, Apax, Permira, Apollo Management LP and Madison Dearborn Partners LLC agreed to purchase Intelsat for $5 billion, including $2 billion in debt. Under ORBIT, Inmarsat would have had to complete an IPO by Dec. 31. Intelsat, which filed for a public offering in May but abandoned the plan to gauge the interest of private buyers, would not have needed to launch an offering until December 2005. Copyright �2004 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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