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Bonds issue is music to V2

Richard Branson finds harmony with Morgan Stanley
RICHARD BRANSON's V2 music company last week retained the US investment bank Morgan Stanley to advise it on a bond issue.

"Things are going quite well for the company," a Branson spokesman said. "We've given Morgan Stanley the remit to advise us on how we can accelerate our expansion."

Launched in March 1996, V2 is Branson's vehicle for returning to the business on which he built his name and fortune. Last June the McCarthy Corporation, run by brothers Rory and Tim McCarthy, shareholders in Virgin's cosmetics and clothing business, took a 33 per cent stake in the company for pounds 45m, plus the provision of two-year pounds 10m debt facility.

This autumn V2, which has set itself the goal of becoming the major British pop label in the $40bn-year-in-sales recorded music industry, began churning out the hits led by Word Gets Around by the Stereophonics, the group now headlining the New Musical Express tour.

V2 derives its jokey name from the fact that in June 1992 Branson sold Virgin Records to Thorn EMI for pounds 560m and committed himself not to begin a rival business for three years. V2 has signed 25 performers since its launch 18 months ago, including the Gravediggers, French rap artist Passi, and Underworld.

It employs 350 staff and has entered into two joint ventures - with Big Cat here and the rap label Gee Street in the US.

V2's biggest claim to fame to date is its orchestration of the Diana, Princess of Wales compilation album, the biggest compilation album ever, netting pounds 40m for her Trust.