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Virgin Galactic shares rise as the space tourism company begins trading under the ticker ‘SPCE’

Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft Unity drops from underneath its carrier aircraft before flying to space in February 2019.

Virgin Galactic | gif by @thesheetztweetz

Virgin Galactic shares rose to begin its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange, as the space tourism company’s stock began trading publicly following its merger with Chamath Palihapitiya’s venture Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH).

Sir Richard Branson’s company listed directly on the NYSE on Monday, following the merger’s approval and closing last week.

“Virgin Galactic is making history again today as it becomes the world’s first and only publicly traded commercial human spaceflight company. For the first time, anyone will have the opportunity to invest in a human spaceflight company that is transforming the market,” CEO George Whitesides said in a statement.

Sir Richard Branson stands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ahead of Virgin Galactic (SPCE) trading in New York, U.S., October 28, 2019.

Richard Branson Virgin Galactic IPO NYSE

Shares of Virgin Galactic rose as much 6% as the market opened. The shares were previously listed under the ticker “IPOA” for Palihapitiya’s special purpose vehicle, which took a 49% stake in Virgin Galactic. Shares of Palihapitiya’s venture closed at $11.79 a share on Friday, up nearly 12% in the past three months.

In essence, Monday’s debut represented a name change for the company, as investors could trade shares of Palihapitiya’s venture since before the merger was announced.

Sir Richard Branson stands outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ahead of the Virgin Galactic (SPCE) IPO in New York, U.S., October 28, 2019.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Special purpose vehicles, also known as SPACs, raise capital to buy an existing company. In Social Capital Hedosophia’s case, Palihapitiya’s SPAC is buying just under half of the company to help it enter the public market. Palihapitiya is the founder of Social Capital and had been an early executive at Facebook.