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Google in talks to nail Virgin as 'partner' in satellite internet plan

Will invest millions in JV and take stake in Galactic – report

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Google is reportedly in talks with Virgin Galactic for a multi-million dollar joint venture and an equity stake in the business, according to Sky News.

The Chocolate Factory is planning to sink its cash into a project with the space tourism biz that will use Virgin Galactic tech in its plans to put hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit so that it can offer internet access around the world.

As part of the deal, it will also take an equity stake in Virgin Galactic’s business of around 1.5 per cent, according to a person close to Google. The company said it wasn't commenting on the rumour.

Insiders also said that Google would spend millions on the joint venture and around $30m on the stake, a price tag that could value Virgin Galactic at as much as $2bn. However, the terms of the deal have not yet been finalised and could still change.

Whispers of Google’s ambitious billion-dollar plan to launch 180 satellites into space to provide internet access to remote parts of the globe began to emerge earlier this month and were quickly followed by news from the horse’s mouth that the firm was acquiring Skybox Imaging, a five-year-old satellite imagery and data-analysis startup.

"Skybox's satellites will help keep Google Maps accurate with up-to-date imagery," the company said in its announcement. "Over time, we also hope that Skybox's team and technology will be able to help improve Internet access and disaster relief – areas Google has long been interested in."

Combining Skybox’s satellites with Virgin Galactic’s launch capabilities would put Google well on the way to its satellite-internet-domination plan, ultimately getting more people online and more eyeballs on its ads. ®

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