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Here’s why Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is going public

Here’s why Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is going public
[Photo: courtesy of Virgin Galactic]

Richard Branson is hoping that we schlubs who can’t afford tickets to space on Virgin Galactic will be willing to help fund the company’s research and development to help get rich people to the stars. The company announced today that it plans to go public later this year.

Making this vision possible is a bit complicated, but so is space travel so bear with me: Virgin Galactic is merging with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp, created by venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, who is investing $800 million in the spaceflight company, which would give it a 49% holding in the new company. In addition, Palihapitiya will invest an extra $100 million and become chairman of the merged company. The combined firm will have an enterprise value of $1.5 billion, Virgin Galactic said, as was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

This will be the first and so far only publicly traded space tourism company, and while the stock price is still TBD, it will undoubtedly be less than a ticket aboard Virgin Galactic. It may not be a bad investment, because according to Virgin Galactic, it already has reservations from more than 600 people who have put down deposits to go on the 90-minute ride to suborbital space in SpaceShip Two (or whatever iteration is flying then).

Per Virgin Galactic, that translates to “approximately $80 million in total collected deposits and $120 million of potential revenue,” and it isn’t done yet. In bold type, the company claims its “customer backlog would single-handedly double the total number of humans to have ever gone to space.”

Plus, Virgin Galactic already sent people to space when its VSS Unity ship carried three astronauts to the edge of space for the first time. So it could be a good investment as long as Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and/or Elon Musk’s SpaceX don’t outperform it. Either way: While you may not be able to afford a ticket to space aboard Virgin Galactic now, maybe if you invest in Virgin Galactic, your spaceship will finally come in.

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