Virgin Galactic Aiming For IPO
Space travel won’t just be for billionaires if Richard Branson gets his way. Fresh from selling a stake in his Virgin Galactic space-tourism subsidiary to Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Group, Branson’s Virgin Group has an even more ambitious aim in mind: to float the company on the stock market while still retaining a significant stake.
“The aim over a bit of time is to try to IPO the business,” said a spokesman for Virgin Group on Tuesday. He said the procedure would follow a similar template seen at Virgin Blue, the Australian airline floated in 2003; Virgin Mobile UK, floated in 2004; and Virgin Mobile USA, floated in 2007. The entire Virgin Group even went public in 1986, but was bought back by Richard Branson two years later.
Branson’s record with publicly traded companies has been mixed. When Virgin Mobile USA was first floated, it was priced at $15 a share, but the stock began to slide soon after. It has traded at below $5 a share for the past year. Now it’s set to be bought by Sprint Nextel for a price of $5.50 per share, according to an announcement on Tuesday, or 63% below its initial value. Virgin Group, which owns 28.3% of the virtual network operator, will get a special price of $5.12 per share.
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