LightSquared "running out of cash"

In my first full-time job, I sold men’s clothes on commission for a small regional chain called Silverwoods in Southern California, a subsidiary in Hart Schaffner & Marx’ retail division (long since defunct).  Some days, I could meet my quota in a couple of hours, and on some days, I couldn’t have sold heaters in the Antarctic.  We called that kind of losing streak having “the Minus touch,” a takeoff on the Midas touch.  In the latter, everything Midas touched turned to gold (a curse in the fable, of course), while in the former case, every potential sale I touched turned to … well, you get the idea.

Perhaps someone might want to check if Barack Obama has the Minus touch lately, because companies that come into contact with his Porkulus package keep heading towards insolvency.  First we had Solyndra, followed by Beacon Power and Open Range, EnerDel, with a campaign-financing detour to MF Global.  Next up — LightSquared?

The upstart wireless company that is being bankrolled by Philip Falcone’s $5 billion Harbinger Capital Partners hedge fund could run out of money during the second quarter of 2012, according to the company’s financial statement.

LightSquared, which registered a $427 million net loss during the first nine months of this year, may not be able to “continue as a going concern” unless it can raise additional capital and financing, the statement reviewed by Reuters said.

“There is a need to raise substantial capital beyond the beginning of the second quarter of 2012 in order to have sufficient liquidity,” the company’s statement said.

It’s been no secret in the telecom world that LightSquared is in need of cash, but the financial statement paints a fairly bleak outlook for the Reston, Virginia-based company. A failure of LightSquared would be another jolt to investors in Falcone’s hedge fund, which has committed more than $3 billion in equity and loan commitments to the company. Falcone gained fame after making billions in 2007 by shorting subprime mortgages.

How likely is Falcone to find more investors in LightSquared?  With the failures of the FCC-mandated tests now publicly known, that seems unlikely — at least under normal circumstances.  The firm’s business plan relies on basing its 4G cell network on frequencies already allocated to LightSquared for low-power satellite communications.  If they have to bid on other frequencies allotted to this kind of commercial service, it would cost billions and moot their whole business plan, especially their partnerships based on significant undercutting of existing cell-phone networks.

That’s why LightSquared tried doubling down on lobbying and political pressure.  The terms of the waiver requires the FCC to reject LightSquared’s application for a permanent waiver to use those low-power satellite frequencies, as they interfere with most GPS units, including military and aviation systems.  LightSquared doesn’t have enough cash for more R&D to figure out how to avoid that interference with millions of GPS receivers that have been sold with FCC blessing over the last decade or more, if it can be done at all.  They have to start seeing revenue soon or they will go bankrupt, and so the only option left is arm-twisting on Capitol Hill to get the FCC to approve the LightSquared rollout and begin making money rather than spending it.

LightSquared looks like yet another costly failure related to Obama’s stimulus, although in this case the only cost to taxpayers appears to be the testing.  I guess those poker nights and “luxe social events” won’t have quite the same cachet …

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