Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings is getting off to a rocky start as the first publicly traded space-tourism company.
The shares have yet to post a daily gain since adopting the SPCE ticker on Oct. 28, following a merger with a shell investment company that was already trading. Virgin Galactic tumbled 11% to $9.41 at the close Thursday in New York, bringing this week’s decline to 20%.
The shares were at $9.47 at 11:47 a.m. Friday.
Buying shares amounts to a bet on the company’s ambitious plans to fly its first passengers into space next year, including billionaire Branson. That’s a business with both potential and risk, and Virgin Galactic has no sales or income at the moment.
“Even compared to an Uber or Lyft or a Slack, this is a really early-stage business. Think of it as a startup that just happens to be listed,” said Alex King, founder of Cestrian Capital Research in Newport Beach, California. King personally owns Virgin Galactic shares. “I think this is going to happen a lot with this stock. It’s going to have some very red days and some very green days.”
Virgin Galactic faces questions about the ultimate size of the suborbital tourism market and the competitive challenges, said Steven Jorgenson, general partner at Starbridge Venture Capital. Two well-funded rivals, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., plan to offer orbital flights.
“You have a lot of uncertainties to juggle,” Jorgenson said in an email. “Virgin Galactic does seem to be a very competent company from a professional and engineering standpoint, but they still have a lot to prove as they have yet to actually fly their first customers.”
Virgin Galactic has a backlog of 600 customers who have placed deposits of as much as $250,000 each to ride into space. Executives have said they expect to raise the fare once the company begins service and resumes taking reservations.
“Just like with most space companies, there’s a lot of hype around Virgin Galactic,” said Meagan Crawford, managing partner with SpaceFund, a venture capital fund in Texas. “I think what you’re seeing today is a market correction based on that hype wearing off a bit. It’s obviously hard to value a company that isn’t yet operational and has no firm date when that’s going to change.”