Mainland-backed APT says it hopes to launch its next satellite in July, provided there are no hitches with the Great Wall Long March Chinese rocket delivery system. Chairman Xie Gao Jue said despite problems with the Long March rockets in the past, he was confident of a successful delivery into space. The Long March series has one of the worst records for successful delivery of satellites into orbit; about 16 per cent of launches have gone wrong. One of APT's own satellites was destroyed last year when a rocket exploded on take-off. Company secretary Brian Lo King-hang said there would be two scheduled Long March launches before APT's Apstar 2R vehicle was put into space. The first is planned for early June, followed by another in early July. Should any problems emerge in the next two months, APT has the right to cancel its own launch and use another rocket delivery operator. 'We are in talks with Arianespace, Proton and Atlas about an alternative launch dates,' Mr Lo said. However, he said it was unlikely a slot could be secured this year. About 34 per cent of the transponder capacity aboard Apstar 2R has already been leased to about 10 international customers. A report by the investment bank Merrill Lynch suggested if the launch was delayed the chances of keeping these customers would be low. A successful launch, however, would help provide momentum for APT's share price, said analyst Cara Eio. Its shares closed yesterday at $12, well below December's initial public offer price of $13.40. APT's first satellite Apstar 1 is fully leased and its second, Apstar 1A, is 77 per cent rented. The company has yet to sign an insurance contract for the latest launch. However, it has appointed underwriters and brokers. Mr Lo said the company was now in a good position in its negotiations with Beijing over proposals for direct broadcast television services in China. Analysts said while the prospects looked exciting, a breakthrough in this area would only feed through into revenues in the longer term. Meanwhile, funding for such a venture could be high.