Richard Branson sold about $300 million in Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. stock, tapping his biggest listed asset again to prop up his business empire during the pandemic.
The billionaire offloaded almost 10.5 million shares — about 4% of the space-travel company — through a company he controls, leaving him with an 18% stake, according to a regulatory filing.
The proceeds will support Branson’s travel and leisure businesses, as well as help develop new and existing ventures, a Virgin Group representative said. Branson, 71, remains Virgin Galactic’s biggest shareholder. The company’s shares fell 4.3% to $24.82 at 5:58 a.m. in early New York trading.
The sale marks Branson’s first since his test flight to space last month on a Virgin Galactic plane. In April, he sold about $150 million in stock to support his other businesses and raised more than $300 million during the first half of 2020 following the global outbreak of Covid-19.
Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., the airline majority owned by Branson’s group, is now considering a public offering in London after receiving a 1.2 billion-pound ($1.7 billion) rescue package last year that included about 200 million pounds from Branson.
Virgin Galactic is planning to debut tourism trips next year, adding space travel to Branson’s track record that ranges from record labels to soft drinks. The Virgin brand he founded as a mail-order retailer in 1970 has since become linked to more than 40 businesses worldwide, including British bank Virgin Money UK Plc. Branson has a net worth of about $6.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Las Cruces, New Mexico-based Virgin Galactic’s stock has tumbled about 56% from a February peak, partly due to the company planning a dilutive capital raise. Still, the shares have more than doubled since the firm began trading publicly after merging in 2019 with a special purpose acquisition company set up by Chamath Palihapitiya.
Palihapitiya, Virgin Galactic’s chairman and another large holder, sold $213 million in Virgin Galactic stock in March.
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