Blast off: Bransons Virgin Galactic plots public listing as commercial space race hots up

Space may be the final frontier, but Virgin Galactic is readying itself to overcome a fresh obstacle before launching into the great unknown: a stock market listing.

Richard Bransons space-tourism venture is planning to go public as part of a deal with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), according to a Reuters source.

This would enable it to sell a stake to a shell company that already trades on the New York Stock Exchange. It would also allow the firm to circumvent an initial public offering.

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The SPAC, created by Social Capital Hedosophia chief executive Chamath Palihapitiya, will invest about $800m for a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Galactic, according to the Wall Street Journal. Social Capital Hedosophia is already publicly-listed.

The deal could be announced later today.

Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia were not available for comment.

Bransons space company is racing to become the first private company to take customers into space next year. Rivals include Elon Musks SpaceX, Jeff Bezos Blue Origin and the worlds largest aerospace firm, Boeing.

Saudi Arabia had lined up to pour $1bn into Virgin Galactic in 2017. But Branson pulled out after the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey late last year.

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