Virgin Galactic Holdings (NYSE: SPCE) took investors on a wild ride in the first half of 2021. The stock finished June up 93.8% year to date, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence. But along the way, it initially rocketed up more than 120% and then fell dramatically before recovering.
Virgin Galactic investors over the years have found out firsthand that space is hard. The company had originally hoped to kick off service in 2020 by flying founder Richard Branson, but a combination of pandemic-related delays and testing setbacks pushed that timetable back.
The company early in 2021 got caught up in the WallStreetBets phenomena and interest from Cathie Wood's Ark Invest, but the stock fell back to Earth on fears there could be further delays to testing. By the end of May, those fears were alleviated, and in June, Virgin Galactic won regulatory authority to fly passengers into space.
That cleared the way for Branson to schedule his flight, allowing him to beat fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos into space and win a lot of publicity for the young company.
Richard Branson and other crew members from Virgin Galactic's historic July 11 flight. Image source: Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic to date has recorded little revenue, and this is a stock that since its first trade has moved more on sentiment than on fundamentals. Over a couple of quarters during which mood and sentiment swung wildly between optimism and pessimism, the stock reacted accordingly.
July has been eventful for Virgin Galactic. Branson completed his trip to space on July 11, but on July 12, Virgin Galactic announced plans to sell $500 million in new shares. The stock sale outweighed the successful flight in investor eyes, causing the shares to be off by about 9% for the month as of this writing.
But the long-term story is still the same. Virgin Galactic is an ambitious yet speculative project with a lot of risk and a lot of potential reward, and a market capitalization north of $10 billion. The company made great progress in the first half of 2021, pushing the shares higher, but investors should recognize there is still a lot that could go wrong and limit Virgin Galactic shares to a small part of a well-diversified portfolio.
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