Inmarsat flying with 55% increase in pre-tax profits

British satellite operator Inmarsat has announced a 55% rise in annual pre-tax profits, benefiting from the growing use of broadband on ships and aircraft, and in remote areas. Pre-tax profits were up from $124.7 million to $193.8 million (£140 million).

Andrew Sukawaty, CEO was quoted in the Financial Times saying, "We are used in places where there is no existing infrastructure. There is no alternative," he said.

The FT said some analysts had feared that Inmarsat's largest business sector - providing shipboard satellite phones and internet connections - could be hit by the reduction in global shipping. However, maritime revenue rose 7.2% in 2008.

"Communications is only about half a per cent of the cost of operating a container ship, while fuel is about 20 to 30%. Running a monitoring programme, via satellite, that allows you to get greater fuel efficiency from the engine will save more money than cutting back on communications," Mr Sukawaty was quoted saying in the FT. "There is a trend to use more rather than less of this equipment."

The biggest growth came in the aeronautical sector, where revenue rose 45% to $64.4 million: Inmarsat supports phone calls and internet access on corporate and government jets, while commercial passenger airlines are increasingly offering the service through Inmarsat.

Sukawaty also said the company, which owns 11 satellites, was planning to launch a mobile satellite phone in the first half of 2010, with a target of 10% market share in two years.

Revenue for the year to December 31 was up 72%. Shares in Inmarsat, which had fallen more than 22 per cent since last September, rose 29p to 459pp.