Coronavirus News Asia

Branson to pitch Virgin Galactic share sale

In a desperate measure to help save his airline and leisure interests, Richard Branson is selling US$500 million (£405m) in Virgin Galactic shares to stem the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

In a statement to the New York Stock Exchange, Branson’s Virgin Group said it intended to sell 25 million shares via a series of transactions, prompting a 5% fall in the share price of Virgin Galactic during pre-market trading, The Guardian reported.

The shares, which account for just over a fifth of the billionaire’s stake in the space tourism business, were worth US$500 million at their pre-announcement price of US$20.

“Virgin intends to use any proceeds to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of Covid-19,” said the company.

The freeze in global travel is affecting a host of Virgin Group companies, including Virgin Atlantic, as well as its holidays, cruises and hotels businesses.

The collapse in air travel forced Virgin Australia into administration and left Virgin Atlantic in severe financial difficulty, The Guardian reported.

The extent of Virgin Atlantic’s woes were underlined this month when the carrier announced plans to pull out of Gatwick airport and cut a third of jobs.

The airline, in which Branson still holds a majority 51% stake, has been seeking emergency investment but is also seeking some form of state bailout to tide it over while planes remain grounded.

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