DigitalGlobe has its eye on you. The company provides satellite imagery used for a variety of applications, including mapping, urban planning, oil exploration, land management, and disaster assessment. DigitalGlobe's products include standard images, panchromatic images, multispectral images, and color infrared images, as well as mosaics and digital elevation models. Nearly 80% of its revenues come from the US government; commercial customers include oil and gas exploration companies and GPS navigation sytem makers. DigitalGlobe's images and services are incorporated into popular mapping applications such as Google Maps and Microsoft Virtual Earth, as well as into GPS systems from DeLorme and Garmin.
In July 2012 DigitalGlobe agreed to acquire top rival GeoEye in a cash and stock transaction valued at around $900 million. Like DigitalGlobe, GeoEye provides satellite imagery of the air, land, and sea used in applications that include mapping, resource management, environmental monitoring, disaster response, national security, and the like. GeoEye brings substantial resources to the merger table, including three satellites in orbit and another scheduled to become operational in late 2013, as well as three aircraft that provide aerial imagery. (DigitalGlobe has no similar aircraft, instead buying the aerial images in its ImageLibrary from suppliers.) Both companies sell primarily to the US government, as well as international governments and commercial customers.
The combined company will continue to operate under the DigitalGlobe moniker with an estimated $600 million in pro-forma revenues, more than $3 billion in contracted backlog, and a more balanced customer base with non-US government customers accounting for roughly half of annual sales. DigitalGlobe shareholders will hold about a 64% stake in the merged company, while GeoEye investors will retain around a 36% ownership interest. More importantly, the companies will no longer be competing for the same contracts -- giving each a more stable revenue base -- and will share the substantial cost of developing and launching new satellites.
It is interesting to note that GeoEye made several unsolicited proposals to acquire DigitalGlobe in 2012, all of which were rejected as inadequate. In each case, DigitalGlobe countered with a proposal that it acquire GeoEye (also rejected). At stake was US funding of the EnhancedView program, and whether funding would continue at the same level for both companies. In June, DigitalGlobe got news that an option on the contract with its top client, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), was renewed for the third year.
The NGA accounts for a majority of DigitalGlobe's sales. The federal agency buys images for use by agencies of the US government for defense, intelligence, and foreign policy applications. In 2010 DigitalGlobe secured a 10-year, $3.5 billion contract that's expected to provide a serious revenue boost. (Top competitor GeoEye won the larger contract, worth $3.8 billion.)
As part of the NGA contract, DigitalGlobe is expected to deploy a fourth satellite to meet the government's capacity requirements. Currently DigitalGlobe owns and operates three imagery satellites -- WorldView-1, WorldView-2, and QuickBird -- that have collected more than 2.4 billion square kilometers of images. Its most recent launch (WorldView-2 in late 2009) expanded DigitalGlobe's image collection capability to add an additional 700 million square kilometers of images every year. In 2010 it commissioned Ball Aerospace to build a fourth satellite, WorldView-3, and for ITT Corporation to design the imaging system. WorldView-3 is scheduled to be ready for launch in 2014, two years after QuickBird is scheduled to come down.
Overall sales were up 5% in 2011 to nearly $340 million. Sales to commercial and government customers rose, while revenues related to international clients fell. DigitalGlobe reported a loss for the year, due in part to a significant increase in operating expenses, including costs related to the addition of four remote ground terminals put into service during the year per the EnhancedView contract and higher labor costs from a 13% increase in headcount. Also contributing to the $28 million net loss was a $52 million loss on early extinguishment of debt, partially offset by a related income tax benefit.
DigitalGlobe gets around a third of revenues from international partners and resellers. The company has added offices in the UK and Singapore to support international expansion plans.
DigitalGlobe was founded in 1993 as WorldView Imaging Corporation, when the Commerce Department licensed it to build and operate a satellite system to gather digital images for commercial use.