Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic to launch IPO by end of the year

Daniel Fowler
July 9, 2019

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic will go public later this year to become the world's first listed space-tourism venture, beating rivals Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Credit Suisse advised Social Capital Hedosophia, while M Klein and Co, LionTree Advisors and Perella Weinberg Partners advised Virgin.

Virgin Galactic conducted its latest test flight in February and its spacecraft reached an altitude of more than 55 miles, which the United States defines as space.

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

Once the transaction has been completed, Virgin Galactic will become the first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company.

Branson's space-tourism venture plans to go public as part of a deal with a special goal acquisition company (SPAC) created by Social Capital LP Chief Executive Officer Chamath Palihapitiya, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters news agency.

Unlike other companies that work in this area, the brainchild of Richard Branson deals exclusively with suborbital launches with the aim of raising tourists into space.

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But since its early days, his ambitious timeline for taking customers into space has suffered delays and setbacks.

Blue Origin expects to launch its first person into space by the end of the year.

"Having sadly had to pull away from an investment by Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and then having demonstrated the repeatability our full flight profile with two crewed spaceflights, we had an opportunity to rethink our investment plans", Mr Branson adds. That means around $80 million in total collected deposits and a casual $120 million of potential revenue.

Social Capital Hedosophia's chief executive officer, Chamath Palihapitiya, who is investing $100 million as part of the deal, will become chairman of the combined company.

"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", Branson said in a statement.

SCH will invest around $800 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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