1 of 2 | Virgin Group founder Richard Branson sent Virgin Galactic's stock plummeting more than 17% on Monday after telling the Financial Times he would no longer invest in the commercial space travel company. File photo by Will Oliver/EPA
Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Virgin Galactic's stock plummeted more than 17% on Monday after founder and British billionaire Richard Branson announced he would no longer invest in the commercial space travel company.
Branson's business empire, which includes Virgin Investments, no longer has "the deepest pockets" following the COVID-19 pandemic, Branson said, according to an interview published Sunday in the Financial Times.
"We don't have the deepest pockets after Covid, and Virgin Galactic has got $1 billion, or nearly. It should, I believe, have sufficient funds to do its job on its own," Branson added.
Virgin Galactic, which was founded by Branson in 2004, recently announced job cuts and the suspension of commercial flights for 18 months in order to save money for a larger spacecraft, called Delta, that would carry passengers to the edge of space.
Tickets on Galactic's Unity space plane, which completed its sixth commercial flight in six months, started at $450,000 for each passenger.
In March, Branson's Virgin Orbit shut down operations after a failed launch from Britain and a cash shortage. Branson said he will no longer spend all of his companies' cash on money-losing flights.
While Branson is cutting his investment in Virgin Galactic, Virgin Investments remains the company's second-largest shareholder at 7.69%. State Street Global Advisors holds 8.43%, according to LSEG data.
When Virgin Galactic went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2019, the company was valued at $2.3 billion. At the close of trading on Friday, its value had dropped to $935 million.