Libra Group embarks on space leasing with Arctic ground station

By Jonathan Saul, Reuters - June 20, 2023
Floating ice is seen during the expedition of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship at the Arctic Ocean, September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Natalie Thomas/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Libra Group said it aims to become the world’s first space leasing company offering satellites, space ports and other infrastructure, and is setting up a ground station in the Alaskan Arctic, vital for polar orbits that monitor climate change.

“There is no space leasing company,” George Logothetis, the executive chairman of Libra, an international business group active in 60 countries and commercial sectors including aerospace, shipping, renewable energy, hospitality and real estate, told Reuters.

“It’s a completely unique concept and we preserve our first mover advantage. Sooner or later someone is going to do it.”

The roughly $350 billion global space industry is poised for rapid growth and could surge to over $1 trillion by 2040, according to Morgan Stanley estimates. There is still limited infrastructure in place and the costs are massive.

Libra, which is privately owned by the Logothetis family, has set up Space Leasing International (SLI), which will own and lease assets critical to the space economy.

As part of its investments in assets that will be leased to U.S. satellite company RBC Signals, SLI will set up a ground station in the Alaskan Arctic, expected to be operational in two months.

It also plans a further 20 ground stations, including in the Southern Hemisphere, to be built and owned by SLI over the next three years and operated by RBC Signals.

“We want to be at the cutting edge of innovation,” Logothetis added.

Libra, which was founded in 2003, has completed over $15 billion of transport transactions through its aviation and maritime businesses and is a leading player in aviation leasing via its LCI subsidiary.

Logothetis, who hosted one of the first fund raising events for U.S. President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign in May, said Libra “took the biggest bet in shipping history” when it acquired 136 ships between 2009 and 2020, including 96 container vessels through its Lomar subsidiary.

Around 60 ships were sold during the container shipping boom between 2020-2023 with sale proceeds approaching $2 billion, Libra said. Lomar’s diversified, core fleet includes approximately 40 vessels.

(Reporting by Jonathan Saul; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)