Branson’s Virgin Orbit to pause ops, furlough nearly all employees – source

By Joey Roulette

(Reuters) -Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit on Wednesday said it was pausing all operations from March 16 and a source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the satellite launch company was also furloughing nearly all of its employees.

Chief Executive Dan Hart told staff in a meeting that the furlough was intended to buy Virgin Orbit time to finalize a new investment plan to help pull the company out of its financial woes, according to the source, who attended the meeting.

Virgin Orbit’s shares dropped 18.8% to 82 cents in extended trading.

The duration of the furlough was unclear, but Hart said he would provide employees an update by the middle of next week on when they could return, the source said.

In a statement to Reuters, the company confirmed the operational pause but it did not give details on the furloughs.

CNBC first reported the news.

Last month, Virgin Orbit said it was investigating the failure of its mission in January to deploy nine small satellites into lower Earth orbit (LEO) from the coastal town of Newquay in southwest England. The mission failure was a major blow to the business and deepened its financial struggles.

“On the ops side, our investigation is nearly complete and our next production rocket with the needed modification incorporated is in final stages of integration and test,” the company said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru and Joey Roulette; Editing by Devika Syamnath)