Virgin Galactic’s commercial service delay sparks downgrade

FAN Editor

Shares of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic tumbled Monday after the aerospace giant’s stock was downgraded from a buy to a hold rating by Truist Securities analyst Michale Ciarmoli. The firm has slashed its price target on Virgin Galactic from $24 to $8 per share. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
SPCE VIRGIN GALACTIC HOLDINGS INC. 6.07 -0.73 -10.74%

The move comes after Virgin Galactic announced on Thursday that it would push back commercial service for its spaceflights from the fourth quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023, citing “escalating supply chain and labor constraints.” 

“The combination of supply chain delays, timing risk, slide-out of comm’l flights to 1Q23, a lack of operational catalysts and rising interest rates drive our downgrade rationale,” Ciarmoli wrote in a note to clients on Monday. “We see supply chain and labor tightness potentially leading to additional slippages of commercial operations and believe a return to flight might not materialize until 2Q23 or later. Rising interest rates weigh materially on our [discounted cash flow] model considering the majority of our valuation resides in our terminal value assumption.”

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The company, which opened ticket sales for its commercial spaceflights to the public in February at $450,000 per seat, has secured approximately 800 future astronaut reservations. Virgin Galactic is aiming to reach 1,000 reservations by the time commercial service begins. 

While commercial service has been pushed back, Virgin Galactic still expects to make a return to space in the fourth quarter with a test flight of its VSS Unity space plane and VMS Eve mothership following their current enhancement period. The enhancements are designed to improve the building and reliability of the ships to enable a higher frequency flight rate in preparation for commercial service. 

Virgin Galactic is delaying commercial service for its spaceflights from the fourth quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023, citing “escalating supply chain and labor constraints.” (AP Photo/Andres Leighton) ((AP Photo/Andres Leighton) / AP Newsroom)

Its second ship, VSS Imagine, is slated to make a debut test flight to space in the first quarter of 2023 and is expected to begin private service midway through the year after several revenue-generating tests flights. Once commercial service begins, VSS Unity will be expected to fly once per month, while VSS Imagine will fly twice per month. 

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic’s Delta Class fleet is expected to begin flights in 2025 with commercial service expected in 2026. A new manufacturing facility, which will have the capability to produce up to 6 Delta Class spaceships per year, is slated to come online in late 2023.

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Virgin Galactic reported a net loss of $93 million during the first quarter of 2022, compared to a loss of $130 million a year ago, on $310,000 in revenue. Looking ahead, the company is expecting free cash flow in the range of negative $80 million to $90 million.

Shares of Virgin Galactic are down more than 50% year-to-date as of the time of publication. 

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