Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit to lay off 85 percent of its employees

Virgin Orbit, the satellite launch company founded by Richard Branson, said it will lay off 85 percent of its employees, according to a filing to the US stock market regulator.

The California-based company will lay off around 675 people to reduce expenses, “in light of (its) inability to secure meaningful funding”, it said in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission dated Thursday.

The job cuts are expected to be mostly complete by April 3.

Virgin Orbit suffered a major setback earlier this year when an attempt to launch the first rocket into space from British soil ended in failure.

The company organized the mission along with the UK Space Agency and Cornwall Spaceport to launch nine satellites into space.

Earlier this month, the company suspended operations for several days while it held funding negotiations and explored strategic opportunities.

But at an all hands meeting on Thursday, CEO Dan Hart told employees that operations would now cease “for the foreseeable future,” according to US media.

“Unfortunately we’ve not been able to secure the funding to provide a clear path for this company,” Hart said, according to a recording obtained by CNBC.

Virgin Orbit’s shares on the New York Stock Exchange were down 16 percent at 34 cents on Thursday evening. –Agence France-Presse

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