Branson’s Virgin Orbit to go public in US$3.2bn Boeing-backed SPAC merger

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Sir Richard Branson’s satellite launch firm Virgin Orbit is going public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) that is receiving financial backing from US aerospace group Boeing Co (NYSE:BA) (NYSE:BA).


Virgin Orbit said it entered into a agreement to become publicly traded on Nasdaq through a merger with NextGen Acquisition Corp. II (NASDAQ: NGCA) that values the combined business at US$3.2bn.


In a statement, Virgin Orbit said the deal is expected to raise around US$483mln for the merged company, including US$100mln in private investment in public equity (PIPE) commitments from investors led by Boeing and AE Industrial Partners, existing Virgin Orbit investors and NextGen.


Virgin Orbit, which was spun off from the space tourism company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (NYSE:SPCE) (NYSE:SPCE) in 2017, air-launches small satellites from modified Boeing 747 aircraft.


The capital raised from the merger will be invested in scaling rocket manufacturing and funding growth in the company’s space solutions business and product development.


Commenting on the deal, Branson, the founder of Virgin Orbit, said: “I’m very excited we are taking Virgin Orbit public, with the support of our partners at NextGen and our other wonderful investors. It’s another milestone for empowering all of those working today to build space technology that will positively change the world.”


Virgin Orbit’s chief executive officer Dan Hart said: “We’ve built Virgin Orbit in order to change the business of satellite launch and to open space for everyone, globally.


“Our success in launch has driven the business forward, and now we expect this investment will enable us to build on our R&D efforts and our incredible team. We are driving innovation with world-class design and advanced manufacturing capabilities, our unrivaled mobility of launch, and our exciting space solutions services.”


The combined company will retain the Virgin Orbit name and will be listed on Nasdaq under the ticker symbol ‘VORB’. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, Virgin Orbit said.


Existing Virgin Orbit shareholders, who include Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, are expected to retain 85% of the combined company, with NextGen’s shareholders taking 10% and PIPE investors and the SPAC sponsor getting 3% and 2%, respectively.

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