FastFacts: Public-Sector Financial Support for Richard Branson’s Space Companies

Four big thumbs up from Richard Branson and then New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson at the Spaceport America runway dedication in 2010. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The nonbinding memorandum of understanding involving $1 billion in investment from Saudi Arabia is Richard Branson’s latest success in obtaining financial support from governments for his Virgin Group’s space companies.

The table below shows funding invested directly into the group’s space ventures and indirectly for infrastructure.

VIRGIN GROUP SPACE COMPANIES — DIRECT & INDIRECT GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT
YEARGOVERNMENT
AMOUNT (MILLIONS)
PURPOSE
2006New Mexico~$225 Custom built spaceport named Spaceport America constructed on 18,000 acres of land — Virgin Galactic signed 20 year lease to serve as anchor tenant
2009Abu Dhabi $280Government-owned sovereign wealth fund Aabar Investments obtained 31.6 percent share of Virgin Galactic — plans for a spaceport where SpaceShipTwo would fly in Dubai — future commitment of $100 million more when Virgin Galactic developed viable plan for small-satellite booster (LauncherOne)
2011 Abu Dhabi $110Aabar Investments increased share of Virgin Galactic to 37.6 percent
2017Saudi Arabia$1,000Under non-binding MOU, government-run Public Investment Fund (PIC) would obtain undisclosed share of three Virgin Group space companies: Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company — Virgin Group  to maintain majority ownership
 TOTAL: $1,615
 Future Saudi Arabia $480PIC has an option to invest nearly a half-billion more in Virgin Group space services
 TOTAL:$2,095

  • patb2009

    There are three ways public dollars come into business

    1) Infrastructure : Airports, Highways, Off Ramps, Water/Sewer…

    2) Equity Investment: (Pension Funds, VC Funds)

    3) Balance Sheet: Loans,

    If the Saudi want to buy stock in Virgin Group, that’s their business. Aabar, Norwegian wealth fund, CALPers, these are supposed to be sophisticated investors.
    Operating loans,well, if it’s short term, that’s just helping the business climate.

  • Search

    So how much of these various Virgin companies is foreign owned? Over 51% yet?

    Its funny that we constantly hear some pundits whining a meme of “US Govt funneling money to Elon Musk’s SpaceX” yet nary a peep on something like this.

    Reinforces the old saying that “You can draw a lot of flies with honey but you get most with sh!t.”

  • Search

    Is this a Saudi company/investment group taking some ownership of Virgin space, or is it the Saudi government?

  • Douglas Messier

    Virgin says it’s going to maintain majority ownership in these companies.

  • Douglas Messier

    Saudi government.

  • mattmcc80

    The people who would complain about government money going to SpaceX are objecting to US government money (i.e, their tax dollars). I seriously doubt those people care much what Saudi Arabia does with its money.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Saudi Arabia is party to the Moon Treaty, so other Moon Treaty nations should expect them to share the benefits 🙂

    But seriously it’s why you should never worry about the money from America going to Saudi Arabia or China for imports. There are always folks like Sir Richard who will see it returns home. In this case Southern Californians will benefit as VG keeps the party going. Maybe XCOR should pay Saudi Arabia a visit.

    In the case of China, Las Vegas is on the job. They even have casinos in Macau to make it easier for the U.S. dollars to return home 🙂

  • Abdul M. Ismail

    Correction: *SpaceShipTwo would fly in Dubai*

    The plan was for SpaceShipTwo to fly from “Spaceport AbuDhabi” (currently Al Bateen Air Base), not Dubai.

    Virgin Galactic’s first ‘presence’ in the UAE was in Dubai when Sharaf Travels was the exclusive ticket seller in the UAE but Dubai was never the location of future Virgin Galactic flights.