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Branson’s Virgin Orbit to pause operations, shares tumble By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A replica model of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket sits in a media area ahead of UK’s First launch at Newquay Airport in Newquay, Britain, January 8, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

(Reuters) -Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit said it was exploring strategic opportunities and was in talks for potential funding after a cash crunch forced the satellite launch company to pause operations starting Thursday.

Shares of the company, which expects the operational halt to continue until Mar. 21, tumbled nearly 45% in premarket trading.

Virgin Orbit has also furloughed nearly all of its employees, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

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

In January, Virgin Orbit’s rocket LauncherOne experienced an anomaly during its flight through space, dashing Britain’s hopes of becoming the first European nation to put satellites into orbit.

The mission failure also deepened the company’s financial struggles.

The company had reported cash and cash equivalents of $71.2 million as of Sept. 30, 2022.

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