Rendering courtesy of Viasat Inc.
An artist’s rendering shows the general look of a ViaSat-3 satellite. Viasat plans to launch the first of three such satellites toward the end of 2021.

Rendering courtesy of Viasat Inc. An artist’s rendering shows the general look of a ViaSat-3 satellite. Viasat plans to launch the first of three such satellites toward the end of 2021.

Richard Baldridge has stepped into the chief executive’s job at Viasat Inc., taking the place of founding CEO Mark Dankberg, who held the role for 34 years. The Carlsbad company announced the change when it disclosed quarterly earnings on Nov. 3.

Dankberg will be executive chairman and oversee several areas of the business — including the company’s technological direction — and will remain chairman of the board.

The move formalizes an informal leadership arrangement that dates back a few years, the company said. Baldridge has “the confidence of our people, our customers, our board and our investors, and it’s a great outcome for the company,” Dankberg told analysts on a conference call Nov. 3.

“I’d like to say it’s been a great ride but I really think our best years are ahead of us,” said Baldridge, who has been with the company since 1999.

Viasat (Nasdaq: VSAT) sells satellite communication hardware and services to government customers, including the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as other businesses. It also offers satellite internet to consumers.

In the next few years, Viasat plans to launch three satellites offering nearly worldwide coverage. The business is targeting late 2021 to launch its first ViaSat-3 satellite. As planned, the satellite will offer coverage of North and South America.

ViaSat-3 is designed to handle data at the very fast satellite speed of 1 terabit per second. The business has been building its communications payloads in Arizona. It is getting ready to hand over the first ViaSat-3 assembly to Boeing, which will prepare it for launch over the course of about a year.

‘Thoughtful and Strategic’

Dankberg said he was happy with the leadership transition.

“This represents a natural evolution and will best serve the interests of Viasat’s long-term future, as we execute against our plan to deliver ubiquitous, affordable connectivity that will help close the global digital divide,” the former CEO said in a statement issued by the company. “Rick has been managing virtually all of the company’s operations and key direct reports for several years, while I have been focused on technology innovation, industry thought leadership and regulatory issues at a time of dynamic change and opportunity within the space and broadband sectors.”

“Viasat is taking an important, thoughtful and strategic first step in its leadership succession planning to ensure the company’s long-term future as a global communications leader,” said Sean Pak, lead independent director on Viasat’s board, in a statement distributed by the company.

Opening Markets

Baldridge has been with Viasat for 21 years. Previously he was with Raytheon, Hughes Information Systems, Hughes Training Inc. and General Dynamics Corp. He serves on the board of Ducommun Inc. (NYSE: DCO), an Orange County-based aerospace company, and EvoNexus, the San Diego-based technology incubator.

One of Baldridge’s main jobs will be to open up additional international markets — as well as new vertical markets — for Viasat’s satellite services. The second satellite in the Viasat-3 constellation, serving Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is expected to launch around summer 2022.

Mike Crawford, an analyst with B. Riley Securities, is upbeat about the company.

“We continue to believe that by the time these two massive-capacity satellites start to approach full utilization, perhaps in 2024-2025, that Satellite Services segment revenue and EBITDA will surpass $2 billion and $1 billion, respectively, with Viasat altogether kicking off more than enough excess FCF [free cash flow] to build and launch a satellite every single year if it so desired,” he said in a research note. EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization.

Beating Analyst Expectations

In the quarter ended Sept. 30, Viasat reported net income of $1.9 million on revenue of $554.3 million. In the same quarter of last year, the company reported net income of $3.2 million on revenue of $592.3 million.

Viasat’s bottom line beat analyst expectations. Analysts surveyed by Yahoo Finance predicted the company would lose 7 cents per share. The company came in with earnings of 3 cents per share.