SANTA FE, N.M. — SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk again appeared to rule out any near-term plans for spinning out his company’s Starlink broadband satellite business and taking it public.
Musk, speaking in a Dec. 21 audio session on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter and also owned by Musk, argued that it did not make sense to take Starlink public and that he had no difficulties raising money for it privately.
Musk has said for several years that he had no immediate plans for spinning off Starlink and conducting an initial public offering (IPO) of shares to raise money. That included a comment in a 2020 talk where he said he was “thinking about that zero” when asked about a Starlink IPO.
However, he was more circumspect about a Starlink IPO in an online interview in June. “It would not be legal for me to speculate about a Starlink IPO,” said Musk, who has sparred with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in the past in his role as chief executive of automaker Tesla. “I think it’s against regulations to talk with any kinds of specifics about a future public offering.”
That interview came after a report that a Starlink spinoff and IPO could take place by the end of the year. His comments added to speculation that a Starlink IPO could happen sooner rather than later.
However, in the most recent discussion on X with investor Cathie Wood, Musk suggested there were no plans to take SpaceX itself, or the Starlink business unit, public for the foreseeable future. “I don’t think it’s worth going public until you have an extremely stable and predictable revenue stream,” he said. “If your cash flows are extremely stable and predictable, at that point going public is less of an issue.”
SpaceX is still building out the Starlink constellation, with more than 5,200 satellites in orbit. The company recently reported having more than 2.3 million Starlink users, although it was not clear if all were subscribers, and is now available in 70 countries. Musk wrote on X Nov. 2 that Starlink had “achieved breakeven cash flow” but did not provide additional financial details.
Musk said he expected to have no problems continuing to raise money for his ventures, including SpaceX, on private markets. “I can equity or debt fund just about anything at this point,” he claimed, based on his past performance for investors. “It’s basically very easy for me to raise almost any amount of capital, frankly.”
He contrasted privately held SpaceX with publicly traded Tesla in how the companies do long-term planning. “At SpaceX we never think about the quarter. We never think about it,” he said. “We don’t think about the stock price. There’s immense pressure on a public company to not have a bad quarter. This can result in a less efficient operation where you’re going to great lengths at the end of the quarter to not disappoint people. That’s just how it goes.”
A key factor motivating SpaceX’s development of Starlink is a desire to generate large amounts of cash that can go towards the company’s, and Musk’s, long-term vision of human settlement of Mars. An icon used by Starlink on social media, as well as on its consumer equipment, shows a Hohmann transfer orbit between the Earth and Mars.
“I think Starlink is enough” for those plans, he said, when asked if SpaceX also needed additional markets, like proposals for using its Starship vehicle for high-speed point-to-point travel, to generate sufficient revenue. “Starlink is the means by which life becomes multiplanetary.”