Investing in Space

Virgin Galactic shares slip on new share offering, aiming to fly Richard Branson in early 2021

Key Points
  • Virgin Galactic expects to fly founder Sir Richard Branson in the first quarter of 2021 after two more test spaceflights.
  • The space tourism company delivered an adjusted EBITDA loss of $54 million for the second quarter, as losses held steady from prior quarters.
  • The space tourism company also plans to raise about $460 million in a sale of shares of common stock.
Virgin Galactic reports $0.30 loss in second quarter

Virgin Galactic shares slipped after the space tourism company reported another quarterly loss and told investors that it doesn't expect to fly founder Sir Richard Branson until the first quarter of next year, when it expects to conclude development testing.

The company also announced plans to raise about $460 million, in a sale of about 20.5 million shares of common stock. At the end of the second quarter Virgin Galactic had about $360 million of cash on hand.

Virgin Galactic provided a significant update to its development timeline, saying its next test spaceflight will occur "this fall," with just two test pilots on board. Then the company will fly a second time, with four "mission specialists" inside the spacecraft's cabin. If both test flights succeed, Virgin Galactic expects to fly Branson in early 2021, which would mark the beginning of its commercial service.

The coronavirus pandemic "has slowed" the pace of Virgin Galactic's testing, the company said in the press release. However, the company cleared three more Federal Aviation Administration milestones during the quarter, with just two of the 29 milestones left to go. The FAA process is key for the company to receive final regulatory approve to conduct flights with its customers. 

The company recorded an adjusted EBITDA loss of $54 million for the second quarter, in line with the losses of $53 million and $55 million in the two prior quarters. Virgin Galactic did not record any revenue for the quarter. Notably, analysts surveyed by Refinitiv had only expected the company to report about $900,000 of revenue, as the company has yet to begin flying paying passengers.

Additionally, demand for future flights appeared to cool slightly, as Virgin Galactic recorded about 300 new $1000 customer deposits. That brought its total number of fully-refundable deposits to over 700 since February, as it reported about 400 deposits in the prior quarter. Those who make a deposit will be the first offered reservations for spaceflights once Virgin Galactic begins selling tickets again. The company has not said how much tickets will be priced for once sales reopen. Virgin Galactic has about 600 reservations on its books, with the majority of tickets sold for between $200,000 and $250,000 per person.

Shares of Virgin Galactic fell about 7% in after-hours trading from its close on Monday of $24.02.

Separately, the company made progress on its plan to develop a service that flies people to orbital destinations, such as the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic said it now has "deposit agreements" for orbital spaceflights with 12 customers, although it has yet to finalize pricing.

"We expect pricing to be competitive with other offerings in the market," Virgin Galactic chief space officer George Whitesides told investors during the company's earnings call.

The Spaceship Company, a Virgin Galactic subsidiary, is nearly finished with the second spacecraft for the company's fleet. The company expects begin testing on the second spacecraft later in 2020.

Virgin Galactic supersonic aircraft four
Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic's stock had risen 7% on Monday after the company announced that it will partner with Rolls-Royce in developing a supersonic aircraft. Virgin Galactic revealed the supersonic vehicle's design after completing a concept review alongside NASA.

The company's business model falls in the realm of luxury experiences, given the high prices of its space tourism offering. The company is in the final stages of developing its reusable spacecraft, which can carry six passengers on a 90-minute trip to the edge of space.

It gave a first look at the interior of its spacecraft at the end of last month. Virgin Galactic is currently installing the cabin interior, which is the central piece of the company's product. 

Take a look inside Virgin Galactic's spaceship cabin

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