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Nippon Iridium halts new subscriptions

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Nippon Iridium (NI) began ringing the death knell for its ailing parent yesterday, when it announced it will no longer accept new subscriptions to the global cellphone-by-satellite service and will soon begin buying back handsets from existing subscribers. The action itself was no great surprise. NI's majority shareholder, Japanese telco DDI, said last month it had ceased to fund Iridium and would close down the joint venture. Alongside Iridium and DDI, NI's other key shareholder is handset manufacturer Kyocera. However, according to the Nikkei newswire's coverage of the closure, the reason for this latest move is that Iridium "has an insufficient financial base to run the satellite phone and paging business". "The service is highly likely to be affected after March 18, possibly going out of service," it adds. Earlier this week, Iridium announced it had won $3 million extra funding from its lenders, which would tide it over until 11 March, but if it couldn't find a buyer by then, it would have to consider liquidation. The news from Japan suggests that that point has already been reached. ® Related Stories Craig McCaw cuts losses and abandons Iridium McCaw to buy Iridium assets in 11th Hour change of plan Iridium to receive $75m from Teledesic's McCaw

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