SIR Richard Branson’s hopes for space flight from the UK have crashed to earth.
His rocket firm Virgin Orbit has filed for bankruptcy in the US after failing to raise the crucial extra finance it needed to survive.
Richard Branson’s rocket firm Virgin Orbit has filed for bankruptcy in the US
Branson spun Virgin Orbit from his space tourism group Virgin Galactic as a new firm in 2017
The company is based in California and is 75 per cent-owned by Branson’s Virgin Group.
It has struggled since the failure in January of its ambitious bid to launch a first satellite from UK soil.
The firm’s LauncherOne rocket was carried into the upper atmosphere on a modified jumbo jet, which took off from Cornwall.
But after being launched in the air, the rocket failed to reach orbit and its payload of US and UK intelligence satellites dropped into the sea.
The firm suspended all operations in March amid pressure on its finances.
Last week, it revealed 675 job cuts — more than four-fifths of its workforce — as its search for a cash lifeline continued.
It has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows it to seek a buyer for the remaining business. It has 120 days to submit a re- organisation plan.
Virgin Orbit boss Dan Hart said: “While we have taken great efforts to address our financial position and secure additional financing, we ultimately must do what is best for the business.”
He insisted that the firm’s cutting-edge technology will have “wide appeal to buyers”.
Branson spun Virgin Orbit from his space tourism group Virgin Galactic as a new firm in 2017.
It was set up to launch rockets from modified 747 aircraft in order to send satellites into space.
It has been a costly venture: the British tycoon and his Virgin Group have invested about £809million into the business in total.
The collapse is hopefully not the end for UK space hopes.
Melissa Quinn, the boss of Spaceport Cornwall — which launched the aborted mission in January — called the Virgin Orbit news “very sad” but she said: “We are the only licensed Spaceport in the UK and are working directly with other launch operators, including Sierra Space.”
SAGA’S SAD TALE
OVER 50s insurance and cruise firm Saga lost £254.2million in the year to the end of January, up from £23.5million the year before.
It took a major one-off hit to its insurance business as new rules meant it had to charge less for cover.
But its cruise business bounced back from the pandemic.
Revenue more than doubled to £168.3million and, overall, its ships were 75 per cent full, up seven percentage points.
Boss Euan Sutherland said Saga aimed to become “the superbrand for older people”.
ONLY one in 20 vans sold last month was fully electric — the same as last year — with diesel vans accounting for almost all the rest.
Vauxhall led the e-van market, accounting for a third of sales, said transport group New AutoMotive.
Meanwhile at least one in six cars sold in March was fully electric.
The figure varied by area, hitting 44 per cent in Oxfordshire.
New AutoMotive boss Ben Nelmes said: “The Government needs to boost the supply of electric cars to enable more people to go electric.”
ALDI WINS THE WAR ON PRICE
ALDI was the cheapest supermarket in March, according to consumer group Which? — with Lidl close behind in second place.
With consumers needing to shop savvier in the cost of living crisis, Which? reckons shoppers could save around £20 on a basket of items from Aldi or Lidl compared to Waitrose, the high street’s most expensive store.
Aldi was the cheapest supermarket in March, according to consumer group Which?
A basket of 41 items at Aldi cost £72.54 in March, and £72.79 at Lidl.
Shopping for the same items at Waitrose would set a shopper back £92.55.
Which? said many major supermarkets still had some way to go to adequately support consumers during the cost of living woes.
Retail editor Ele Clark said: “The big retailers have a responsibility to ensure everyone has easy access to basic, affordable food ranges at a store near them — and to provide transparent pricing so people can work out which products offer the best value.”
VIRGIN MEDIA had to apologise yesterday to millions of customers who were without internet access for several hours.
An outage started at 2am but Virgin said it had sorted the problem by 11.30am
BARK IN TWEETS
THE price of Dogecoin leapt by around a third after billionaire Elon Musk swapped Twitter’s blue bird for the cypto- currency’s dog logo.
Musk’s bizarre move came days after his lawyers asked a federal judge to throw out a multi- billion-dollar lawsuit accusing him of manipulating Dogecoin’s price.
Dogecoin is valued at just over £10billion.
NUTS AT CREDIT SUISSE
ANGRY shareholders confronted Credit Suisse bosses at the 167-year-old bank’s last ever annual meeting yesterday.
Directors got bumper pay packets despite the collapse of the Swiss banking giant last month.
Angry shareholders confronted Credit Suisse bosses at the 167-year-old bank’s last ever annual meeting yesterday and one had a bag of walnuts
The bank was rescued by rival UBS in a forced takeover which left shareholders out of pocket
One held up walnuts in Zurich and said: “A bag of these is worth about one share.”
Another raged: “It is not acceptable that people who can drive a bank into the ground do not go to jail.”
Despite the protests a tiny majority 50.06 per cent of shareholders agreed the beleaguered bank’s pay packages.
It left CEO Ulrich Korner pocketing a £2.2million package for 2022. Former chief financial officer David Mathers got £3.4million.
Mr Korner said: “I understand that you feel disappointed, shocked, or angry. I share the disappointment.”
He went on: “The bank had been significantly weakened by strong outflows in October 2022 as a result of unfounded rumours.”
L’OREAL’S £2bn BUY
FRENCH beauty giant L’Oreal has bought Australian skincare brand AESOP for £2billion — its biggest takeover deal in decades.
Aesop, founded in Melbourne in 1987 by hairdresser Dennis Paphitis, has almost 400 stores worldwide.
L’Oreal boss Nicolas Hieronimus hailed its “superb combination of urbanity, hedonism and undeniable luxury”.
He hopes to expand the chain’s influence in China.