In what’s likely to be the most eyebrow-raising acquisition of 2022, the world’s richest man, Elon Musk, bought Twitter for a generous $44 billion. As Musk continually spoke of and tweeted about the importance of freedom of speech throughout the platform, it became increasingly clear that the purchase represented something of a passion project for the man who shot to fame as the co-founder and CEO of Tesla. But what does the move mean for another of Musk’s fledgling ventures, Starlink?
Musk has harbored some lofty ambitions across his companies, and perhaps none have the potential to be more impactful for the world than Starlink, which promises to deliver comprehensive broadband internet coverage via a constellation of satellites operated by SpaceX.
However, the purchase of Twitter has dominated news cycles since the shock takeover attempt took place. Given the company’s stock market performance since going public, it’s fair to say that Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) will require plenty of attention in order to become a consistently profitable venture.
As we can see from Twitter’s price over the past 12 months, the stock has undergone a 23.55% decline in value, owing in no small part to mass investor sell-offs as inflation began to reach record-breaking levels in the second half of 2021.
However, since going public in 2013, Twitter has posted a net loss every year besides 2018 and 2019 - when the company made a profit of just over $1 billion. At a price of $44 billion, Twitter weighs in at less than one-tenth of Facebook’s valuation of over $500 billion.
However, Musk himself has downplayed the financial aspect of his Twitter purchase. At the TED2022 conference in April, Musk said that “this is not a way to make money.”
"It's just that my strong, intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important for the future of civilization,” Musk added.
Is it possible that Musk’s commitment to revamping Twitter could interrupt Starlink’s path to launch an IPO in the future? Let’s take a deeper look at how the promising company has performed in 2022 so far whilst Musk’s intentions for Twitter were laid bare:
Despite Musk’s widely publicized purchase of Twitter, 2022 has already been a busy year for the development of Starlink, with the company seeing a wide range of activity taking place and even some positive PR emerging amidst the horrors of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In late April, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched another batch of Starlink internet satellites into orbit. The launch was one of nine SpaceX launches that were solely dedicated to Starlink missions. Furthermore, SpaceX has launched almost 2,400 Starlink satellites to date.
We’re already seeing this broader coverage of satellites get to work in providing new means of connectivity around the world. In recent weeks SpaceX agreed to its first deal with an air carrier to provide in-flight wireless internet access using Starlink satellites in a bid to become a leading provider of high-speed internet access in flight.
Although the deal is with a semi-private jet service, JSX, an airline with 100 airplanes, the successful deployment of Starlink terminals could pace the way for more comprehensive internet coverage across commercial airlines in the near future.
Significantly, Starlink won plaudits around the world for its assistance to Ukraine in combating the Russian invasion, according to one Ukranian soldier.
Musk opted to send Starlink terminals to Ukraine as the conflict intensified following requests from government officials due to fears that the country would lose internet access due to Russia’s attacks.
In an interview conducted by journalist David Patriakos, a soldier, identified as Dima, said: “I want to say one thing: Elon Musk’s Starlink is what changed the war in Ukraine’s favor. Russia went out of its way to blow up all our comms. Now they can’t. Starlink works under Katyusha fire, under artillery fire.”
Starlink’s assistance to Ukraine has helped to strengthen the brand’s reputation around the world, which may lead to greater levels of investor interest when an IPO is ultimately launched.
Despite Starlink being particularly active in 2022 so far, the prospect of an IPO appears to remain a distant one, with it more likely that a flotation will take place over the coming years rather than months.
“An exact date for Starlink is unknown. The company's executives have previously stated that Starlink needs projected cash flow for its IPO,” explained Maxim Manturov, head of investment advice at Freedom Finance Europe. “It also needs billions of dollars of investments to build a satellite constellation, which could also postpone the IPO indefinitely.”
“Overall, the industry itself may be of interest to investors, in terms of new technologies. The industry continues to evolve and new players are emerging in the market - Project Kuiper (a project of the founder of Amazon) and OneWeb (a London-based company with a 45% government stake).”
Although there still appears to be some hurdles to navigate ahead, Starlink’s activity in the midst of Elon Musk’s very public acquisition of Twitter indicates that the company’s development remains on course.
Buoyed by positive publicity and the deployment of more satellites, the future may still be bright for Starlink, whenever it decides to finally launch its long-awaited IPO.