Starlink IPO is still about 3 or 4 years away: Elon Musk

Starlink may already be expanding its reach to several countries across the globe, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes that it will still take some time before the satellite internet service is ready to go public. This was according to Musk during a recent all-hands meeting with SpaceX employees.

During the meeting, Musk reportedly highlighted that Starlink’s business needs to be in a “smooth sailing situation” with “good predictability” before it could be spun off as a public company. Musk noted that while he does not have an exact estimate as to when this would be the case, he is guessing that Starlink may be ready to go public three to four years from now.

“I’m not sure exactly when that is, but maybe it will be like — I don’t know, just guessing — three or four years from now,” Musk said, noting that by his time, “I think spinning it off as a public company can make a lot of sense.”

Three to four years from now would translate to a Starlink IPO sometime in 2025 to 2026, which is quite a bit later than Musk’s initial estimates. In a 2019 email retrieved by CNBC, for example, Musk stated that “it will probably make sense to take Starlink public in about three years or so.”

Musk pushed back this estimate last year, however, when he stated that it would be “at least a few years before Starlink revenue is reasonably predictable.” He also warned that Starlink “going public sooner than that would be very painful.”

The CEO reiterated this point during the all-hands meeting, with Musk telling SpaceX’s employees that they “should not think of things going public as, like, a sure path to riches.” “The public markets are fickle” and “really pistol-whip you if you don’t meet expectations,” Musk added.

Musk’s words of caution come from a place of experience, considering what he went through with Tesla. Tesla is publicly traded, and while its market cap is the largest among Musk’s companies today by a wide margin, it is also the venture that has probably given the CEO the most grief over the years. Musk has learned a lot since Tesla went public, and these lessons are likely what is driving him to hold off on Starlink’s eventual IPO for now.

Starlink, for its part, continues to grow. Late last month, it was revealed that Starlink now has over 400,000 subscribers worldwide. About 2,500 satellites have also been launched to support the satellite internet system. Starlink is also playing a notable role in the Russia-Ukraine war, with the satellite internet system helping Ukrainians stay online despite Russia’s efforts. Ukrainian officials have noted that Starlink has about 150,000 daily users in the country.

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