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Rocket launch firm blasts onto Milan stock market

An Avio satellite launching rocket Image copyright JM GUILLON
Image caption Avio specialises in launching satellite rockets into low orbit

An Italian rocket launch firm, dubbed Europe's answer to SpaceX, has become the first company of its kind to list its shares.

Shares in Avio began trading on the Milan Stock Exchange on Monday and jumped more than 8% before falling back.

The firm, which launches satellites into low orbit, says it is raising funds to help it expand.

The satellite industry was worth $208bn in 2015, according to industry figures.

Avio boss Giulio Ranzo told the BBC he expected demand to grow as satellites become used for new purposes.

They are most commonly used for mobile phone communications and navigation systems, but new applications were "coming to market", he said.

"One of them is the ability to deliver internet services from space, anywhere across the globe, be it in a desert or the middle of an ocean," Mr Ranzo said.

"Another is to provide very accurate, high resolution images of the earth, allowing us to follow forestry, vegetation and climate change - which will be so important to monitor the health of our planet."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Elon Musk runs US rocket launch operator SpaceX

Most of the investment in space launch companies has come from private venture capital firms.

US-based SpaceX, perhaps the best known operator, has raised more than $1bn from investors. The company, headed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, launches satellites and space cargo flights but also has its sights set on space tourism.

Avio shares began trading on Monday at 13.88 euros (£11.83).

The company, Europe's biggest satellite launch firm, has annual revenues of 280 million euros with an order book worth 900 million.

According to a study by Leoni Corporate Advisors, around 2,600 satellites will be launched in 2016-2020, twice as many as between 2010 and 2015.

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