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Virgin Orbit says space startup in talks with potential investors

FILE PHOTO: Virgin Orbit facility is seen, in Long Beach

(Reuters) - Billionaire Richard Branson's cash-strapped satellite launch company Virgin Orbit Holdings said on Thursday it is in talks with "interested parties" about an investment in the company.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Texas venture capital investor Matthew Brown was nearing a deal to invest $200 million in the space startup via a private share placement, citing a term sheet Reuters had seen.

"As we disclosed on March 16, the company has taken cash preservation measures as it explores strategic options to secure Virgin Orbit's future," Virgin Orbit said in a statement.

"The company can confirm that it is in discussions with interested parties about a potential investment in the company," Virgin Orbit added. "Beyond this, we will not comment on market rumors."


Without elaborating, Virgin Orbit also acknowledged comments made by Brown on a Thursday interview with CNBC TV.

Brown confirmed on CNBC he wants to buy Virgin in a deal he hopes to close by the end of Friday.

"We are in active discussions. In fact, I would say final discussions with the company," Brown told CNBC. "We like the company and we fully plan on transacting with the company within the next 24 hours."

Brown, who describes himself as a "space enthusiast" who has invested in more than 13 space companies, told CNBC he would own Virgin Orbit if the deal closes.

He did not confirm the contemplated investment amount, but said the deal would "inject enough capital to make (Virgin Orbit) cash-flow positive."

Brown also told CNBC he liked Virgin Orbit's business model. The company launches a rocket carrying a satellite from the wing of a Boeing 747, rather than launching from the ground, allowing for quicker launches according to the company.

Brown could not immediately be reached by Reuters to comment.

A deal would be a boost of confidence for a company that has grappled with dwindling cash and mounting losses in recent quarters in a highly competitive market.

Virgin Orbit said on Wednesday it would resume operations on Thursday and prepare for its next mission by recalling some employees.

Virgin Orbit's market capitalization slumped to a record low of $150 million on Tuesday before reports about Brown emerged from more than $3 billion two years ago when it went public through a blank-check deal. On Thursday afternoon, the market capitalization was about $175 million.

The company, which received about $35 million of capital injections from Branson's Virgin Investments in recent months, said last week it was exploring options and was in talks for fresh funding.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette; Writing by Ben Klayman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)