Virgin Galactic shares jump on NYSE debut

©Virgin Galactic visits the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate its listing

Monday, October 28, saw Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. (Virgin Galactic) become the first space-tourism enterprise to go public as it traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). The listing was the result of a merger with a currently trading shell investment company, Social Capital Hedosophia, and has now secured critical funding for the future of the company’s participation in what is being referred to as the “new space race”, which includes Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaxeX) and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Sri Lanka-born Chamath Palihapitiya, Social Capital’s Hedosophia’s founder, will contribute US$100 million to the venture and become its chairman. According to Virgin Galactic, the public offering, which involves approximately 40% of total stock, values the company at US$2.4 billion. The remainder of the company is owned by Branson and backers from Abu Dhabi.

The new entity climbed 5.1% to US$12.40 at 12:34 p.m. in New York on Monday, its first day trading under the ticker SPCE. The shares rose 11% Friday after the combination was completed, handing Virgin Galactic more than US$450 million in primary proceeds. While SpaceX has focused on transporting satellites, Virgin Galactic has chased the tourism market, with a first commercial flight planned for next year. Blue Origin intends to take payloads and tourists to the edge of space on an 11-minute flight. Branson said last week that Virgin Galactic is also interested in developing hypersonic airline flights after Boeing Co.’s future-technologies arm pledged US$20 million for a minority stake. The consequence could mean inter-city travel in the U.S. that would take only minutes and long-haul flights to Australia taking only a few hours.

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