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£178m payday for Sir Richard Branson from Virgin Galactic's listing on the New York stock exchange

Posted by Caribbean World Magazine on 2 October 2019 | 0 Comments

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2 October 2019

Sir Richard Branson will pocket a cool £178 million when his space tourism firm Virgin Galactic becomes a public company. The payout will reduce Branson’s stake in the firm which he founded to realise his dream of ‘the dawn of a new space age’.

The billionaire entrepreneur behind the Virgin Group plans to launch the first commercial flights into space in 2020. So far Branson is believed to have invested around $880million (£716million) in Virgin Galactic, alongside around $200million of additional investment from Mubadala, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund. Virgin Galactic was founded in 2007and Branson forecasts revenues will hit $431million by 2023.

Documents filed in America in late September 2019 show Branson will cash in some of his investment when Virgin Galactic floats on the New York stock exchange at the end of this year. The deal is worth $1.5billion and once complete will enable Branson and Mubadala to split a $274million payment to ‘existing investors’. The Abu Dhabi firm will receive around $55million while Branson’s share will be around $219million (£178million). 

Virgin Galactic will be the first publicly-traded commercial spaceflight company. The flotation – via a merger with a listed investment firm called Social Capital Hedosophia – is still subject to SCH’s shareholder approval.  Branson will continue to retain majority control of the merged organisation with investors asked to approve four new proposals, including an incentive package for directors.

Virgin Galactic has two sister companies, Virgin Orbit (which launches small satellites from a Boeing 747) and The SpaceShip Company, which builds and tests the VSS Unity. The company is planning to relocate from the Spaceport America Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California to the newly-completed Spaceport America in New Mexico. Virgin Galactic has already pre-sold the inaugural 90-minute flights with tickets costing $250,000 per passenger.