Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

Richard Branson’s wealth falls as losses widen at Virgin Galactic

Value of British billionaire’s stake in Virgin Galactic has fallen about $1.1bn

The value of British billionaire Richard Branson's stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings has fallen about $1.1 billion. Reuters
The value of British billionaire Richard Branson's stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings has fallen about $1.1 billion. Reuters

Wearing a black suit and harness, Richard Branson once leaped from the roof of a Las Vegas casino to launch one of his ventures.

His fortune headed in the same direction this week.

The value of the British billionaire’s stake in Virgin Galactic Holdings has fallen about $1.1 billion (Dh4bn) since the company reported widening losses in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. The firm’s shares tumbled 24 per cent to close at $21.97 in New York and have plunged 35 per cent since Tuesday.

The Las Cruces, New Mexico-based firm is planning to resume ticket sales for future space flights to show Wall Street that affluent customers are willing to pay for such adventures.

Space tourism is one of the latest bets from Branson, a serial creator of companies including everything from record labels to fizzy drinks to bridal gowns. The Virgin brand he founded as a mail-order retailer in 1970 is now linked to more than 60 businesses, including British bank Virgin Money UK and airline Virgin Atlantic. This month, Virgin launched an adults-only cruise ship line that aims to attract younger passengers.

Mr Branson, 69, isn’t the only billionaire betting on space. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos both have ventures in the area, but Virgin Galactic was the first to become a public company following a merger with US investment firm Social Capital Hedosophia four months ago.

The company has since become a highly speculative stock, more than doubling this year before Tuesday’s after-market results as hedge funds and other investors predict it will establish a new space-tourism industry.

Chief executive George Whitesides has said the company will begin customer flights this year, with Mr Branson expected to be among those on the maiden voyage.

Mr Branson owns about half of the business, which still makes up the bulk of his $6.8bn fortune even with Wednesday’s stock slump, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Updated: February 28, 2020 02:17 PM

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