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Richard Branson Image Credit: Reuters

Billionaire Richard Branson sold about $150 million (Dh550 million) in shares of his space tourism company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc., cutting his stake by about 3 per cent.

Branson, 70, remains the company's largest holder with a stake of about 24 per cent through an investment vehicle, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. This is his first sale since the middle of 2020, when he offloaded more than $400 million-worth to raise funds for his ailing travel business.

A Virgin Group spokesperson confirmed: “Virgin intends to use the net proceeds from this sale to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that continue to be affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, in addition to supporting the development and growth of new and existing businesses. The Virgin Group continues to be the largest shareholder in Virgin Galactic.”

The stock has tumbled 55 per cent from a February closing peak of $59.41. Delays of a test flight and Branson's own trip to space have sapped investor enthusiasm. Another large holder, Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya, sold $213 million in stock last month.