Richard Branson Seeking More Funding for Virgin Galactic & Virgin Orbit

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo fly right overhead. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Having broken off a $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia following that government’s murder and dismemberment of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Richard Branson has hired LionTree Advisors to drum up funding for Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company, Sky News reports.

Discussions with prospective investors, including sovereign wealth funds, private equity firms, high net worth individuals and strategic partners, are already under way, according to people close to the process.

LionTree’s appointment is understood to have been made on the back of expressions of investor interest that followed Galactic’s test flight in December to the edge of space.

Sources said this weekend that Sir Richard was seeking funding that would value Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, which launches satellites for commercial customers, at a combined sum of well over $2bn (£1.55bn).

The precise amount that he is looking to raise has yet to be determined, but people close to the process suggested it would be at least $250m (£193m), representing a minority stake.

In October 2017, Branson signed a memorandum of understanding for a $1 billion investment by  Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. The deal, which included an option for $480 million more,  would have injected funding into Virgin Galactic, Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company.

The murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey put an end to the deal. Branson was also set to invest in a new city named Neom that Saudi Arabia plans to build on the Red Sea.

Branson has said that Virgin has spent $1 to $1.3 billion on the three companies. That figure includes $390 million invested by aabar Investments, which is one of Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds.