July 9 (UPI) -- British billionaire Richard Branson said Tuesday his spaceflight company will soon become the first ever listed on a public trading exchange by merging with a U.S. investment firm.
Branson said his company will merge with Social Capital Hedosophia in a move that will raise about $800 million for Virgin Galactic. By merging with the firm, which is already publicly traded, Virgin Galactic bypasses the costs and uncertainty that's typically involved with making an initial public offering.
Social Capital Hedosophia will have a 49 percent stake in the combined business, the companies said Tuesday.
"Today, we become more formidable still, by announcing that Virgin Galactic ... has taken a huge step towards becoming the very first publicly listed human spaceflight company," Branson said in a statement.
The combined company will become the first publicly traded spaceflight company when the deal closes by the end of the year, Virgin and Social Capital said.
New Virgin Galactic Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya told CNBC Tuesday the company will become profitable in two years.
Branson said the company's goal is to create a space tourism industry where wealthy travelers spend more than $200,000 per seat to fly to the edge of space. Competitor Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is after the same goal and has plans to launch its first tourist into space by the end of this year.
Branson said he originally hoped for investment from Saudi Arabia, but pulled away after the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last fall.