Iridium's future was hanging in the balance again yesterday after it received two last minute bids from companies willing to buy its global satellite telephone network.
A group of investors headed by internet developer and publisher hotJump confirmed the eleventh hour bid, while indicating that internet publishing house, Merit Studios, had also entered the fray.
Iridium filed for bankruptcy protection last August and a US court gave it until 17 March to find a purchaser, following the withdrawal earlier this month of a $74.6m rescue package from mobile telecoms pioneer Craig McCaw and his Eagle River investment firm.
But Iridium told the court on Friday that it could not find a buyer and would terminate its service and liquidate its assets. It also asked for permission to use $8.3m of its remaining money to close its operations down, although Motorola, a major backer and creator of the Iridium service, said it would operate the satellites for a "limited time".
A spokesperson at hotJump said, however: "Though technically out of business, we believe the bid was received before Iridium stopped its service. We are waiting for a response to the bid. Iridium presented the opportunity for us to get where we want to be."
He explained that by 2003 at the latest, the company hoped to expand its reach into the mobile commerce and voice activated commerce markets, and the addition of Iridium's global satellite systems would further expand its broadband portfolio.
But he added that hotJump was not the only bidder for Iridium. "We just got word that another offer had been made by Merit Studios for cash and stock," he claimed.
Merit Studios is proposing to use the 66 Iridium satellites to create a data transmission network that would use its data compression software, but the company was unavailable for comment.
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