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The Stock of Virgin Galactic Rallies as the Company Nears a Milestone Mission

May 28, 2024
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Shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. surged 3.9% in premarket trading as the space-tourism company gears up for the final flight of its Unity spacecraft next month.

Virgin Galactic’s stock (SPCE) had ended Friday’s session down by 5.2%. The company’s shares have plummeted 65% in 2024, in stark contrast to the S&P 500 index’s 11.2% gain.

Virgin Galactic is nearing a significant milestone. The company is aiming for a launch window opening on June 8 for its Galactic 07 mission. This mission will be the last flight of Virgin Galactic’s Unity spacecraft before it pauses commercial operations to focus on developing its new Delta-class spacecraft.

The Delta spacecraft represents a substantial upgrade from the current Unity spacecraft. While Unity accommodates four seats for paying passengers, the Delta will have six seats and will be capable of up to eight spaceflights a month, compared to Unity’s one flight per month. Tickets for Delta flights will be priced at $600,000, up from the current price of $450,000.

Galactic 07 will also mark Virgin Galactic’s seventh commercial and research spaceflight, its second spaceflight this year, and the twelfth overall.

Virgin Galactic provided an update on its financial status when it reported its first-quarter results last month, drawing attention to its cash burn. The company forecasted lower-than-expected second-quarter revenue. However, KeyBanc Capital Markets highlighted Virgin Galactic’s lower-than-expected cash burn as a positive indicator. Among 10 analysts surveyed by FactSet, two have a buy rating, five have a hold rating, and three have an underweight or sell rating for Virgin Galactic.

In a separate development, the Swiss National Bank increased its stake in Virgin Galactic during the first quarter, as indicated in an SEC filing.

Virgin Galactic ended the first quarter with $867 million in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, slightly down from $874 million at the same period last year. The company’s cash position remains a critical focus for investors. Virgin Galactic’s shares dropped in December after founder Richard Branson ruled out further investment in the company, which had recently detailed its short-term growth strategy.

As Virgin Galactic prepares for the final Unity flight, the company is at a crossroads, balancing immediate operational goals with long-term development plans. The shift to the Delta-class spacecraft aims to enhance capacity and frequency, positioning the company for a more robust commercial future. The planned increase in ticket prices reflects the enhanced capabilities and expected demand for the new spacecraft.

The upcoming Galactic 07 mission is not just a significant operational milestone but also a pivotal moment for Virgin Galactic’s financial health and market perception. The focus on cash management and burn rate remains crucial as the company transitions to the next phase of its business plan. Analysts and investors are closely monitoring these financial metrics, given the company's mixed performance and fluctuating stock prices.

Virgin Galactic's journey highlights the challenges and opportunities in the nascent space tourism industry. The company's ability to innovate and scale its operations with the new Delta spacecraft will be essential in restoring investor confidence and achieving its long-term vision. As the space-tourism market evolves, Virgin Galactic’s strategic decisions and financial stewardship will play a pivotal role in determining its future trajectory.

Overall, while the near-term outlook involves navigating financial pressures and operational transitions, the successful deployment of the Delta spacecraft could mark a transformative step for Virgin Galactic, aligning with broader trends in commercial space exploration and tourism.

Cathy Hills
Associate Editor
Eric Ng
John Liu
Editorial Board
Bryan Curtis
Adan Harris
Managing Editor
Cathy Hills
Associate Editor

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