Saudi Arabia shoots for the stars with $1bn investment in Virgin space companies

Saudi Arabia is looking to the heavens with a plan to invest $1bn (?760m) in Sir Richard Branson’s space businesses.
The entrepreneur, who attended the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, said that the country plans to sink the money into his US-based Virgin Galactic, Spaceship Company and Virgin Orbit ventures.
Although the deal needs to be agreed by the American government due to the sensitive nature of the industry the companies operate in, if it goes ahead it would give Saudi Arabia a significant stake in what could be a huge market.
Sir Richard said: “This investment is a sign of confidence from the international investment community that our vision, our approach and our technology are the right path to commercialising space access.”
He said Virgin’s VSS Unity spaceplane and LauncherOne rocket were “poised to reach significant technical milestones in the run-up to launch”, and added the companies are “eager to build out our R&D and US facilities to support next generation vehicles and services”. A cash injection from Saudi Arabia could accelerate this.
Saudi Arabia shoots for the stars with $1bn investment in Virgin space companies

Virgin's space companies claim to be 'just months' from putting people into space

Sir Richard added the businesses are “just months away from sending people into space and Virgin Orbit placing satellites around the Earth”.
Backing from Saudi Arabia could also see the development of what he called “a space-centric entertainment industry” in the Gulf nation.
Funding would be funnelled to the Virgin space companies through Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund which Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman takes an active interest in.
If the investment is approved, Sir Richard said despite the size of the deal PIF would be only a minority shareholder, and the companies would remain based in southern California and New Mexico.
Saudi Arabia shoots for the stars with $1bn investment in Virgin space companies

Sir Richard Branson and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at FII

Saudi Press Agency
The agreement is just one of a series of plans to come out of this week’s Future Investment Initiative (FII) event – which has been nicknamed "Davos in the Desert" by some.
Others schemes include a plan for the construction of a $500bn business and industrial zone in the largely uninhabited northwest of the country and which would extend into Jordan and Egypt.
FII is aimed at helping modernise Saudi Arabia and prepare the country economically for when its oil reserves run dry by using the income they currently generate to secure its future.
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