SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stands at the base of a Starship rocket prototype at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
Steve Jurvetson on flickr
Elon Musk last week told SpaceX employees that the company likely won’t go public with its Starlink satellite internet business until 2025 or later, CNBC has learned, again extending the estimated timeframe for an initial public offering.
“I don’t know exactly when this [IPO] is, but maybe it will be like – I don’t know, I guess – in three or four years,” Musk said at a general meeting of employees at the private company on Thursday, according to an audio recording obtained by CNBC.
Musk stressed, as he has done before, that the Starlink business needs to be “in a smooth sailing situation” with “good predictability.” At this point, “I think turning it into a public company can make a lot of sense,” the SpaceX CEO said.
The timeline’s latest delay comes despite repeated questions from various investors over the years about owning a piece of SpaceX, a stock that remains privately traded.
Musk was previously targeting a bid as early as this year, according to an email to SpaceX employees obtained by CNBC. The email, sent by Musk in May 2019, said “it will probably make sense to go public with Starlink in about three years.”
Musk later pushed back on that estimate, saying in a tweet last year that it would be “at least a few years before Starlink’s revenue would be reasonably predictable,” adding that “going public sooner than that would be very painful.”
SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Musk’s remarks.
SpaceX’s Starlink network is designed to deliver high-speed internet anywhere in the world through thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit. The company revealed late last month that Starlink now has more than 400,000 subscribers worldwide. SpaceX has launched around 2,500 satellites to date to support the system.
While SpaceX offers a variety of Starlink products and services, the base price of $110 per month and the company’s most recent subscriber numbers suggest annual service revenues of more than $500 million per year.
A Starlink satellite terminal, also known as a dish, installed in front of a motorhome.
Musk warned employees during his comments on Thursday that they “shouldn’t think of things going public as, say, a sure path to wealth.”
“Government markets are fickle” and “really whip you if you don’t meet expectations,” he said.
Musk has had an often contentious relationship with regulations for publicly traded companies. In 2018, he agreed to pay millions in settlement fees to the Securities and Exchange Commission in response to accusations of fraud over a failed plan to take his electric vehicle maker Tesla private. He is also currently battling with Twitter over a proposal to privatize the social media company.
“Being public is definitely an invitation to pain,” he told SpaceX employees Thursday. “And the stock price is just entertaining.”
SpaceX continues to raise billions in capital to develop both Starlink and its massive Starship rockets. The company’s valuation hit $127 billion in its most recent funding round.