UrtheCast Corp., the Canadian company that transmits pictures of Earth from cameras on the International Space Station, said it agreed to buy the satellite unit of a Spanish utility to boost its image offerings.
UrtheCast agreed to pay 74.2 million euros ($84.2 million) for Madrid-based Elecnor SA’s Deimos Imaging unit, which operates two satellites, the Vancouver-based company said in a statement Monday. UrtheCast has two cameras attached to the Space Station in a partnership with Russia’s space agency.
The acquisition gives UrtheCast a wider variety of imagery sources and boosts its data offerings for customers who use its photos to track economic activity, from commodities brokers monitoring crop yields to Wall Street analysts tracking retail traffic by counting cars in parking lots.
“We’re going to put all of the data from those sensors on our platform, and this is where we are really going out to serve the big data customers and the analytics companies,” Chief Operating Officer Wade Larson said in a phone interview. “Wall Street seems to be waking up to the potential of Earth observation for the first time.”
Shares of UrtheCast, whose largest shareholder is Fidelity Investments, have more than tripled in the past year as investors bet it has found an inexpensive niche in the market for pictures from space, where competition is intensifying. Google Inc. entered the market last year by buying Skybox Imaging Inc. for $500 million.
UrtheCast on June 19 announced plans to launch and operate a constellation of 16 satellites starting in 2019 and 2020, in addition to its cameras on the Space Station. The shares jumped 28 percent to C$4.92 in Toronto in the last two trading days before the announcement.
Under the acquisition, UrtheCast will buy the outstanding shares of DOT-Deimos, which owns and operates two satellites, Deimos-1 and Deimos-2, according to the statement.
The acquisition will boost the company’s employment to almost 200 from about 145, according to Larson. UrtheCast’s adviser for the transaction was Raymond James Financial Inc.