The space plane company was initially forged through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). It went public as Virgin Galactic in late 2019.
Although SPCE stock saw some success during its debut, it has since made a round trip back to its IPO level.
Shares now trade around $12.80, close to where they were at the start of 2020.
Virgin Galactic taught investors the basics of SPACs. It was promoted on TV by Chamath Palihapitiya. In fact, speculation sent it as high as $60 per share, but results sent it crashing.
Unlike some SPACs like Vinco Ventures (NASDAQ:BBIG), there was at least something real here to invest in.
SPCE Stock and the Promise of the Space Plane
Virgin Galactic owns a space plane. It was first demonstrated almost 20 years ago by engineer Burt Rutan. The idea is that a craft with a small rocket engine could be lifted by a conventional plane, be released from it like a glider, then reach near space before landing.
English billionaire Richard Branson sought to commercialize it. He flew on the VSS Unity in July. Virgin released the design of a new, more durable craft in May. It even built a “Spaceport America” in New Mexico.
Sounds promising right? Here’s a look at why SPCE stock has struggled despite the hype.
One of the main issues squelching the hype is the fact that the company hasn’t shown economic viability.
Virgin Galactic has been passed in space tourism by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, both of which use real rockets to rise higher. Branson has hyped the idea of half-orbital flights, Europe to Australia in a few hours. But Virgin Orbit Holdings (NASDAQ:VORB), created to do that, has failed to draw investor interest.
Where Is Virgin Galactic Going?
There are still analysts with glowing reports about space tourism. There are even some willing to go on TV and talk about a glorious future just around the corner. But despite the Federal Aviation Administration clearing Virgin Galactic for flight in September, there’s little indication that the company is going anywhere.
The FAA clearance in September gave SPCE stock a little lift. So did the launch of Virgin Orbit. But an occasional daily rise doesn’t make up for months of losses. Over the last year, the stock has lost nearly half its value.
I have been a long-time skeptic regarding Virgin Galactic. I criticized it on the way up as well as the way down. I have repeatedly suggested people “exit the Ferris wheel.” I have described it as an object lesson on what can go wrong with SPACs.
That doesn’t mean Virgin Galactic is a scam, or that its aims aren’t noble and lofty. A decade ago, it was a great idea. The idea of commercial space flight is a glorious dream, but it has always been space flight, not air travel, and space is perilous.
Analysts have been slowly downgrading Virgin Galactic stock. Tipranks currently counts 10 analysts on Virgin Galactic. Three are saying sell, even at the current price. But some still say buy it.
Hope springs eternal.
The Bottom Line on SPCE Stock
Risk capital is made for things like Virgin Galactic. Investors put money into crazy dreams. Although some take off like Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), most fizzle.
Had Virgin Galactic been able to scale production, taking thousands of paying customers to the edge of space, it could have made money.
But this never had the makings of a public company. Small investors shouldn’t be risking their retirement on hope and on “maybes.” SPACs took a lot of overhyped hope and maybes to the public market, bypassing the circuit breakers of both government and the stock markets.
If you want to buy into a venture fund, buy into a venture fund. But if you let yourself be lured by a promoter’s dreams, you deserve what happens when they crash and burn.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn did not hold (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial journalist since 1978. His latest book is Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, essays on technology available at the Amazon Kindle store. Follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn.