By Liana B. Baker and Jessica DiNapoli
SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Intelsat SA is planning to extend the deadline for investors to swap their bonds in the company for several weeks, seeking to keep its merger with U.S. satellite technology peer OneWeb Ltd alive, according to people familiar with the matter.
The new deadline will be pushed out from late Thursday to at least mid-May, the people said, asking not to be named because the matter is private. Bloomberg News earlier reported the deadline would be extended by at least a few more days.
Representatives for Intelsat declined to comment. OneWeb could not immediately be reached for comment.
OneWeb, backed by Japan's SoftBank Group Corp, and debt-laden satellite operator Intelsat agreed to merge at the end of February in a deal that is conditional on approval from Intelsat's bondholders. The debt exchanges, if successful, would help reduce Intelsat's $15 billion in debt by $3.6 billion.
Some of Intelsat's debt is trading above prices that the company is offering in the debt exchange, indicating Intelsat bondholders are holding out for a better offer. SoftBank however, is reluctant to offer enough money to bring the bondholders onboard, a person familiar with the matter said.
A meeting is planned for Friday between Intelsat and some of its bondholders to try to hammer out a deal, another of the sources added.
Intelsat started a series of debt exchange offers on March 24. To be successful in consummating a deal with OneWeb, the company needs holders of at least 85 percent of the total face value of each series of notes to participate in the exchanges.
OneWeb is among a handful of startups planning to build, launch and operate thousands of small satellites to provide internet access worldwide. Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp unveiled plans in January 2015 for an internet-via-satellite network that would eventually include some 4,000 satellites.
(Reporting by Liana B. Baker in San Francisco and Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Chris Reese)