Virgin Galactic IPO Ready for Takeoff

Billionaire Richard Branson’s space tourism company will merge with Social Capital Hedosophia to enter the stock market by the end of the year.
Virgin Galactic IPO Ready for Takeoff

Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture backed by Richard Branson, announced it is going public through a merger with a publicly traded special purpose vehicle.

Under the deal, Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH) will own a 49% stake in the new company. SCH trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

The deal is set to raise more than $800 million of which $300 million will go toward the purchase of shares from existing shareholders. Another $460 million will be reserved for “continued growth and commercialization,” according to an investor presentation, and $48 million would be used for transaction fees.

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Virgin Galactic chief executive officer George Whitesides said the company was approached by SCH several months ago with the proposed merger.

“It offers certain advantages over doing a conventional IPO in the sense that it essentially has already raised the money itself, and so the time commitment for the management is somewhat reduced,” Whitesides said. “Shareholders can have liquidity and the company can take advantage of public markets.”

The company said its near-term business would be focused on space tourism but the “ultimate application” of its vehicles would be point-to-point transportation. It said hypersonic travel could present a “significant global revenue opportunity” in the commercial aviation market.

Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder of SCH, will become chairman. Adam Bain, the former chief operating officer of Twitter, will join the board of directors.

Palihapitiya said he expected the company to achieve profitability within two years of going public.

“We have a customer backlog of more than 600 people, more than $80 million in collected deposits already,” Palihapitiya said.

Tickets for a  90-minute space flight are $250,000.

Virgin Galactic has raised about $1 billion, largely from Branson.

In October 2017, Virgin Galactic announced it was set to get $1 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, but that deal was suspended after the murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.