Published: Tue, July 09, 2019
Economy | By

Branson's Virgin Galactic to go public

Branson's Virgin Galactic to go public

Richard Branson's space-tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, is planning to go public, creating the first listed human spaceflight firm.

Virgin Galactic said Tuesday it is merging with Social Capital Hedosophia, whose CEO, Chamath Palihapitiya, will become chairman of the combined entity.

Money raised from the merger will be invested in turning Virgin Galactic's technology into a commercial operation, following two test-flights of its spaceship the VSS Unity.

Branson is thought to have already invested more than $1 billion in the project since 2004, while a similar proposed Saudi investment was suspended a year ago following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Virgin Galactic will be listing its shares on the New York Stock Exchange through a minority acquisition made by a special goal acquisition company created by former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya.

Branson's company is racing against Blue Origin, the space business of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, to bring tourists to space.

FILE - In this December 13, 2018 file photo, a view of Virgin Galactic prior to it reaching space for the first time during its 4th powered flight from Mojave, Calif. Richard Branson's space-tourism venture, Virgin Galactic, is planning to go public, creating the first publicly listed human spaceflight firm, it was reported on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004, and since its early days his ambitious timeline for taking customers into space has suffered delays and setbacks.

Hundreds of people from 60 countries, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and pop star Justin Bieber, have paid or put down deposits to fly on one of Virgin's suborbital flights. Virgin Galactic has roughly $80 million in commitments from people around the world who are willing to pay $250,000 for a trip to the exosphere.

Virgin Galactic and public-investment vehicle Social Capital Hedosophia will merge, with SCH expected to own up to 49 percent of the combined company, the statement said.

Sir Richard said: "By embarking on this new chapter, at this advanced point in Virgin Galactic's development, we can open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts".

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