Richard Branson to sell Virgin Galactic SPCE stake up to $500 million

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Galactic (C) poses next to George T. Whitesides (R), CEO of Virgin Galactic Holdings after ringing the First Trade Bell to commemorate the company’s first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange on October 28, 2019.

Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is preparing to sell up to $504.5 million of his stake in space tourism company Virgin Galactic, according to company filings on Monday.

“Virgin intends to use any proceeds to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19,” the company said in a press release.

The sale of up to 25 million shares of Virgin Galactic common stock will be made “from time to time by means of ordinary brokers’ transactions,” the company said. The offering represents just under 22% of Branson’s total Virgin Galactic stake, which was valued at $2.32 billion as of Friday’s close of $20.18 a share.

Shares of Virgin Galactic fell as much as 8% in early trading but later recouped part of those losses to close down 3.9% at $19.40.

The Virgin Group – with its wide array of leisure, retail and travel businesses – has been battered by the coronavirus pandemic. Its airlines have been especially hit hard, as Branson said last month that both Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia would need government loans in order to survive.

Branson took Virgin Galactic public last year through a merger with Chamath Palihapitiya’s venture Social Capital Hedosophia. The space tourism venture continues to operate at a loss but is aiming to fly Branson to space later this year, which would mark the beginning of Virgin Galactic’s commercial operations. The company is in the final stages of developing its reusable spacecraft, which can carry six passengers on a 90-minute trip to the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic has a backlog of about 600 customer reservations on its books, with the majority of tickets sold for between $200,000 and $250,000 per person. The company also has over 400 deposits of $1,000 each since taking its first step in February toward reopening ticket sales.

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