Virgin Galactic Stock Soars as Branson Set to Win Space Race With Amazon's Bezos

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Barron's 02 July, 2021 - 06:54am 27 views

When is Bezos going into space?

The news came just hours after Bezos' Blue Origin said Bezos would be accompanied into space on July 20 by a female aerospace pioneer who's waited 60 years to rocket away. Bezos chose July 20 as his West Texas launch date — the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Associated PressRichard Branson announces trip to space, ahead of Jeff Bezos

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Stock in space tourism pioneer Virgin Galactic is on the move again because a battle between billionaires is heating up. And this is a battle people can watch.

Galactic (ticker: SPCE) shares are soaring, with a gain of about 15% to just over $50 in early trading. The gain was some 30% before the market opened.

The reason for the bounce is another test flight. The company announced its next flight, which will be fully crewed and will carry founder and billionaire Sir Richard Branson into space.

The flight is slated to leave as soon as July 11. That’s significant because it’s earlier than another billionaire, Jeff Bezos, plans to leave the earth. Bezos is taking his brother and the winning bidder in an auction for a seat into orbit in a Blue Origin rocket on July 20. Blue Origin is the space company Bezos founded.

The third person paid $28 million for the right to be first.

Space aficionados, as well as investors, can watch the Branson flight on Virgin Galactic.com and the company’s TwitterYouTube, and Facebook channels. The live stream is expected to begin at 9 a.m. Eastern time on the day of the flight.

Virgin Galactic investors might already feel like they have been on a rocket after the recent performance of their investment. Shares traded below $15 in early May after the company ran into flight-testing delays, but they surged to almost $56 by late June, after the delays were resolved, another test flight went ahead, and the company received a commercial license allowing it to carry passengers.

That isn’t all the recent trading volatility. The stock has traded down every day this week after a couple of analysts downgraded shares after prices blew past their price targets. Now, the shares are up again on the Branson news.

Coming into Friday’s trading, Galactic stock was up about 82% year to date, far better than comparable returns of the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average. Investors are high on the prospects for space tourism.

Including the premarket gains, the company’s market capitalization was roughly $13 billion, about the same as Vail Resorts (MTN).

Vail and Galactic have very different growth profiles. Vail Resorts, though, is expected to generate $1.9 billion in 2021 sales, with $2.6 billion anticipated in 2022. Galactic, for comparison, is expected to generate about $3 million in 2021 sales, and $53 million in 2022.

Vail trades for about 41 times estimated 2022 earnings. Galactic isn’t expected to be profitable in 2022.

Which will it be: Head for the slopes…or head for the stars?

Write to allen.root@dowjones.com

Stock in space tourism pioneer Virgin Galactic is on the move again because a battle between billionaires is heating up.

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Richard Branson aims to beat Jeff Bezos to space

Reuters 02 July, 2021 - 10:32am

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