Branson alert: not another IPO

July 29, 2009

Is there anything less plausible than the idea of an IPO of Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture that is the latest jewel in Richard Branson’s crown?

A Virgin Group spokesman mooted the idea after the bearded one sold a 32 percent stake to an Abu Dhabi-based investment company called Aabar, which clearly wants to appear first in the local phone book.

Here are two thoughts.

One, for all the hype surrounding Galactic, is it really plausible that people will be queuing round the block to spend $200,000 for a few minutes in “space”? Isn’t there a bit of a recession on?

Two, if there’s one thing scarier than blasting off in one of Branson’s space rockets, its the idea of owning shares in one of his companies. The list of dogs is endless: Victory; Virgin Express; Virgin Media and Virgin Blue.

And dont imagine he’s getting any better with practice. Only the other day, Branson flogged his US mobile company, Virgin Mobile USA, to Sprint. The price? At $5.50 a share, mere 63 percent below the $15 flotation price in October 2007.

Ground control to Major Beard: don’t call us we’ll call you.

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