Musk Sees SpaceX IPO in 2013 as SolarCity Awaits Lease Review

Elon Musk, who leads Tesla Motors Inc., said an initial public offering of SolarCity Corp. may occur this year after a review of accounting, with an IPO of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. probable in 2013.

Plans to sell shares in SolarCity, which leases rooftop solar-power systems, won’t advance until “additional clarity on the accounting” for those leases is provided by auditors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk said in an April 5 interview. Bloomberg reported Feb. 1 that the San Mateo, California-based company was seeking an IPO as early as last month, citing three people with knowledge of the matter.

“There is this question of how do you account for something when it’s a lease,” Musk said. “Not all of them are structured in the same way. We want to just double-check with our auditors and the SEC before we file to make sure the accounting is correct.”

Musk, 40, is chairman of SolarCity. He is also chief executive officer of both Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, and Tesla, and has been a Silicon Valley entrepreneur since the 1990s. He founded Zip2 Corp. and sold it Compaq Computer Corp., now a unit of Hewlett-Packard Co. He also co-founded PayPal Inc., which EBay Inc. acquired. The June 2010 debut of Tesla, a maker of battery-powered automobiles, was the first IPO of a U.S.-based carmaker since Ford Motor Co.’s offering in 1956.

Deliveries of Tesla’s first wholly U.S-produced vehicle, the Model S sedan, which starts at $57,400, begin in July. Shares of the Palo Alto, California-based carmaker have almost doubled in value since the IPO at $17 a share.

SpaceX Missions

SpaceX has contracts valued at $4 billion and stretching through 2017 for satellite launches and for ferrying cargo to the International Space Station for the U.S. government, said Kirstin Brost Grantham, a spokeswoman for company. SpaceX is “cash-flow positive,” Musk said, without elaborating.

A major test for SpaceX occurs April 30 when its Falcon 9 rocket is to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the company’s Dragon capsule, which is designed to dock with the space station.

The decision to take SpaceX public depends on having a “highly predictable revenue stream,” Musk said at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

“SpaceX doesn’t absolutely need to go public, so it’s best to delay going public until we have a steady stream of launches occurring,” he said. Late 2013 is the most likely timing, he said.

Musk owns a majority interest in SpaceX, which he founded in 2002. He also owns 26 percent of Tesla and 25 percent of SolarCity.

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