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‘Virgin Galactic lifts off plans for stock market flotation’
Posted on Tuesday, 09 July 2019 07:45
Sir Richard Branson’s space-tourism venture Virgin Galactic is planning an initial public offering (IPO), recent media reports observed, adding the group will list through a potential investment from a New York-traded special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). It would represent the first stock market flotation of a business that has plans to put tourists into space, according to Zephyr, the M&A database published by Bureau van Dijk. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) was the first to cite people familiar with the matter as saying Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings is planning to invest around USD 800.00 million into Virgin Galactic in exchange for a 49.0 per cent interest. According to another report by Bloomberg, the SPAC is nearing the end of its allotted time to make an acquisition following its initial public offering in 2017. Virgin Galactic could become part of Social Capital and therefore a public company by the end of this year, sources told the WSJ, adding it would help fund the group while its spaceships can operate and generate a profit. The newspaper observed that roughly 600 people have paid the business around a combined USD 80.00 million to go into orbit within the next few years. A deal could be announced as early as today, Reuters reported, citing other insiders with knowledge of the situation. Virgin Galactic was initially in discussions with Saudi Arabia for a USD 1.00 billion investment; however, Branson backed out of such talks following the kingdom’s assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Kashoggi in October 2018. It raised USD 110.00 million from Aabar Investments in 2011 and, reportedly, has received over USD 1.00 billion in funding from its founder. The company is competing with other global billionaires that are also planning to send customers into space, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies. Zephyr shows there are no announced IPOs by space research and technology companies on record. Last year, just three deals in this sector were signed off, the largest being Beijing One Space Technology securing a second round of funding by CICC Jiahe Tianjin Equity Investment Fund Management and China Merchants Capital Management, among others, for CNY 300.00 million (USD 43.57 million). Orbex, a satellite launching and monitoring group based in the UK, raised GBP 30.00 million from investors such as Sunstone Capital and Elecnorr Deimos Space. Lastly, US-headquartered Leo Aerospace secured an undisclosed amount of seed funding from unnamed backers. © Zephus Ltd