AST & Science Going Public with $1.8 Billion Valuation of Satellite Venture

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On Wednesday, special purpose acquisition company New Providence announced that it would take Texas-based AST & Science public through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) deal. CNBC reported that satellite broadband company AST will have an equity value of $1.8 billion. AST will list on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol ASTS, likely in the first quarter of 2021.

AST is building a satellite network called “SpaceMobile,” designed to deliver broadband from space directly to smartphones. The company’s first experimental satellite launched in April 2019 and plans for a second launch are slated for late 2021. 

The second satellite is estimated to cost $48 million, according to AST. The SPAC deal will fund the development of SpaceMobile through “phase one,” giving AST “enough capital to launch our first 20 satellites,” said AST Chairman/CEO Abel Avellan.

“What we’re doing is launching a space-based satellite network that allows any phone — without any modification of hardware, software, apps, nothing — to be able to connect directly to satellites,” Avellan told CNBC. “This will support true 5G broadband speed. We get to revenue [in the black] when we launch our first 20 [satellites] in the second half of 2022 for commercial operation in 2023.”

Avellan founded AST in 2017, and will retain 43 percent ownership of the company after it goes public. The company employs 160 workers, reported CNBC. 

According to New Providence Chairman Alex Coleman, “AST SpaceMobile represents a unique opportunity to invest in a pioneering company with revolutionary technology, a built-in customer base, and a flexible and scalable business model that addresses one of the largest challenges to global connectivity.”

AST expects to have $541 million in total capital when it goes public, reported CNBC. Once phase one is complete, AST expects it will cost another $1.2 billion to launch an additional 148 satellites to provide global coverage.

AST also announced that existing investor Vodafone Group is a SpaceMobile launch partner. “We believe SpaceMobile is uniquely placed to provide universal mobile coverage, further enhancing our leading network across Europe and Africa — especially in rural areas and during a natural or humanitarian disaster — for customers on their existing smartphones,” Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read said earlier in 2020.

With the SpaceMobile program, AST estimates it will reach “over 700 million unconnected people” in 49 equatorial nations. The company projects SpaceMobile’s subscriber growth to begin in 2023 with 9 million users, estimating to net $181 million in revenue — or about $20 per subscriber. 

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