WASHINGTON — Virgin Orbit has extended the deadline for bids as part of its bankruptcy auction process that the company says has attracted interest from dozens of potential bidders.
In a May 12 filing with federal bankruptcy court in Delaware, Virgin Orbit said the company, with the agreement of other major parties in the case, has agreed to extend the deadline for final bids by four days, from May 15 to May 19. The company also postponed the deadline to notify bidders that their bids are considered qualified from May 17 to May 21.
If there are more than one qualified bids for Virgin Orbit or its assets, a bankruptcy auction will take place. That action has been delayed from May 18 to May 22. A court hearing on the sale, though, remains scheduled for May 24.
The company, in the filing, did not give a reason for the extension, noting only that the bidding procedures gave the company the ability to extend those deadlines “in their reasonable discretion” and with appropriate consultation.
The court approved the bankruptcy sale plan May 1. Virgin Orbit sought an “expedited” sale of the company, arguing that it would attract interest from both those who considered investing in the company before its April 4 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as well as new bidders.
Virgin Orbit said May 9 that it had received more than 30 “indications of interest” in the company. It did not identify any of them, but noted that “multiple” parties were interested in buying the entire company, keeping it operating and retaining current employees “in an integrated enterprise.”
“I’m pleased with the number and quality of the indications of interest we’ve received, which we believe reflects the innovative ideas and hard work the team has put into the development of this unique system,” Dan Hart, chief executive of Virgin Orbit, said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with those who have expressed interest and other parties as we approach the final bid deadline.”
In the hopes that the company will remain in business under new ownership, a minimal staff of about 100 employees has continued preparations for the next LauncherOne launch, which could take place later this year. Virgin Orbit said April 19 it had completed the investigation into its previous, failed LauncherOne mission in January, confirming earlier accounts that a dislodged fuel filter caused a premature shutdown of the rocket’s upper stage engine.
A new owner, though, would have to address more fundamental issues that led to the Virgin Orbit’s bankruptcy filing. That includes high operating costs and a low launch rate — just two launches a year in 2021 and 2022 — that resulted in severe operating losses, depleting cash reserves.
There is no guarantee that the winning bidder would seek to continue the company’s operations. Bidders could instead propose to purchase some subset of the company’s assets, like its Boeing 747 aircraft, if that maximizes the value of the deal for creditors.