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Richard Branson has acquired a stake in Seraphim Space Investment Trust Plc, the first venture capital fund focused on the space sector, as part of a 178 million-pound (US$247 million) initial public offering.
The billionaire purchased stock in London-based Seraphim in a sale that closed Friday, Will Whitehorn, the company’s chairman, said in an interview Monday. He declined to disclose the size of the commitment.
Branson is backing the U.K. firm as his own Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. prepares to carry tourists into space. The entrepreneur and five other crew rocketed in a test flight Sunday to an altitude of 53 miles, high enough to experience weightlessness and view the curvature of the Earth. Virgin Group confirmed that Branson is a Seraphim investor.
Whitehorn, a former Virgin Galactic president, said Airbus SE was among other parties to buy shares of Seraphim, which is set to commence trading Wednesday on the main market of the London Stock Exchange. The European planemaker rolled over its existing investment in Seraphim funds.
The closed-ended investment firm said the IPO had been oversubscribed, with applications scaled back to equal the 150 million pounds originally targeted. A further 28.4 million pounds has been raised in connection with the acquisition of 15 initial assets.
Deutsche Bank AG and JPMorgan Chase & Co. arranged the sale. Proceeds will be used to bulk up existing stakes in 19 fledgling businesses that have been diluted as the value of space assets is spurred by less-expensive satellite launches from Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Branson’s Virgin Orbit. The portfolio features five “unicorns” -- startups valued at more than US$1 billion.
Seraphim has been investing in space since 2016 and is switching to a listed vehicle so that backers can achieve returns without the firm needing to exit assets. About half of the IPO proceeds will be reserved for startups with no U.K. links, in which it previously had been unable to invest.