Sir Richard Branson’s space tourism venture Virgin Galactic faces its first test of investor confidence in a proposed stock market float tomorrow.
Would-be shareholders will vote on whether to back the entry via investment vehicle Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH), or whether to withdraw their cash entirely.
SCH was formed in 2017 and already trades on the New York Stock Exchange. It plans to merge with Virgin Galactic, bringing the space travel venture onto the market in an unconventional move which would avoid the traditional risks of an Initial Public Offering.
The deadline for this is fast approaching, and looks set to be missed, however, which would see SCH go into liquidation.
In that case, investors get back $712m (£578m) next week. They will vote tomorrow on whether to allow this to happen or whether to postpone the deadline for a merger until December and subsequently keep their cash in the Virgin Galactic float.
A stock market listing would make Virgin Galactic the only publicly-traded human spaceflight company.
The commercial space race
Branson’s space company is racing to become the first private company to take customers into space next year. Rivals include Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Space X has thus far focused on cargo missions, but Musk has expressed a desire to take passengers into space.
Meanwhile, Blue Origin is building a rocket with a passenger capsule housing six seats and large windows to view the curvature of the Earth. Anyone can reserve a seat on the website already, although actual take-off dates have yet to be announced and prices aren’t known.
Virgin Galactic has gone furthest on the journey to fully-fledged space tourism, however. It has already sold 600 tickets to take passengers into space, at $250,000 each.
An SCH spokesperson said: “Our merger with Virgin Galactic is on track and on schedule. As we said when we announced the merger in July of this year, we expect the deal to close in the last quarter of 2019.
“We fully anticipated the need for an extension vote from our shareholders, and we remain on our original timetable. We are also confident that our shareholders will approve the extension vote, and will announce the results soon after the meeting.
“We look forward to the conclusion of this deal and the introduction of the first publicly traded human spaceflight company.”
All images: Getty