Branson considers selling stake in Virgin Galactic

Richard Branson may sell up to $500 million in space
tourism company Virgin Galactic to help shore up his airline and other travel and leisure
businesses that have been hard hit by the Covid-19 travel shutdown, the Virgin
Group said Monday.

Virgin Group said it has filed with the Securities and
Exchange commission to sell up to 25 million shares, or about a quarter of
Branson’s stake in the space venture.

“Virgin intends to use any proceeds to support its portfolio
of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the
unprecedented impact of COVID-19,” the Virgin Group said.

Sales of shares of common stock “are expected to be made
from time to time by means of ordinary brokers’ transactions,” the statement
said.

The move comes as Branson has asked the U.K. government for
up to 500 million British pounds in loans and guarantees for his airline, Virgin
Atlantic. 

In a blog post last month, Branson said the pandemic has
created the “most challenging times we have ever faced” in the more than 50
years he has been in business.

“The cash we have in the Virgin Group and my personal wealth
is being invested across many companies around the world to protect as many
jobs as possible, with a big part of that going to Virgin Atlantic,” he wrote.

Although Virgin Galactic has yet to launch space tourism
flights and has been dogged by years of setbacks, the company’s market value
has almost doubled from $2.3 billion during its initial public offering six
months ago to $4.25 billion, with the Virgin Group’s stake close to $2 billion.

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