Branson set to relinquish control of Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic yesterday revealed it had been approached by a series of rivals over potential tie-ups, increasing speculation that Sir Richard Branson is preparing to relinquish control of the carrier he founded in 1984.

The airline has appointed Deutsche Bank to "look at all strategic options", part of which will be to evaluate deals with other carriers. A Virgin spokesman said yesterday that since the investment bank was brought in, "we have received a number of lines of enquiry".

However, he cautioned: "It is far too early to comment on individual details." And the spokesman refused to shed light on the identity of the suitors, in spite of reports emerging that the US airline Delta had made an approach.

"Virgin has a very strong brand and it is attractive to those seeking alliances."

A tie-up, whether by a merger or an alliance, with Delta would be attractive as it would strengthen Virgin's transatlantic business and bring it into the SkyTeam alliance of 13 airlines.

Gert Zonneveld, an airline analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: "Virgin does not want to be left at a disadvantage as others form alliances. But it is not as easy as just being able to merge, as there are issues around consolidation in the industry."

This year analysts had mooted a deal between Virgin and British Midland International, owned by Lufthansa. Others suggested Sir Richard could sell down his stake, allowing the group to become part of a wider alliance.

Virgin is especially attractive torivals because of its landing slots at Heathrow. It is the second-largest long-haul carrier operating out of the airport. However, industry consolidation has threatened to leave the carrier in the cold. It has not joined any of the three industry alliances: SkyTeam, OneWorld and Star Alliance. The review is expected to continue for some time, with a deal unlikely before the spring.

Meanwhile, British Airways has merged with Iberia, and formed an alliance with American Airlines. "The industry is moving towards consolidation – this is an important step for both airlines," BA said last month. The combined group will be lead by the BA chief executive Willie Walsh.

The spokesman for Virgin added: "Following the moves by BA and Iberia, we are not keeping our heads in the sand. We thought it would be an opportunity to look at the whole landscape. We are still confident in our strategy."

James Halstead, an independent airline analyst, said: "Virgin may feel a bit squeezed. It has to think strategically about what it needs to do."

Sir Richard owns 51 per cent of Virgin Atlantic, with Singapore Airlines holding the other 49 per cent. In May, he prompted speculation of a potential deal after he admitted that the airline might not be able to remain independent in the face of increasing industry consolidation.

However, just last month, Edmond Rose, director of commercial planning, said the company had no plans to join an alliance. He added: "We are very confident of our business and future growth strategy and do not need to be part of a global alliance to ensure success."

Mr Halstead said: "The industry is very fragmented and airlines are looking to consolidate to make some sense of it all." He added that there were "huge issues" over changing ownership, with restrictions placed on changes ofjurisdictional ownership with the national flag carriers, but regulation is gradually loosening. "In any other industry these guys would already have been buying each other," he said.

Who's flying with who?

Star Alliance

Star has 27 member airlines, more than 4,000 aircraft and carries 603.8 million passengers a year. Its carriers include Lufthansa, Air China, Continental Airlines, SAS, Air Canada and Singapore Airlines.

OneWorld

Its 12 airlines carry almost 300 million passengers a year to 136 countries. They include British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia, as well as Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

SkyTeam

SkyTeam's carriers, including Aeroflot, Air France/KLM, Korean Air, China Southern and Vietnam Airlines, take 384 million passengers a year to 169 countries.

Virgin Atlantic

Sir Richard Branson founded the airline 26 years ago. It has a fleet of 38 aircraft, flies 30 routes worldwide and has so far remained outside any of the airline alliances.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people

Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando

Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
News
news

Rap music mogul accused of running two men over in his truck

News
Gywneth Paltrow proposed that women seek out a special herbal steam-treatment service
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Toronto tops the charts across a range of indexes
news

World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Arts and Entertainment
tv

First full-length look is finally here

Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Peppa Pig wearing her golden boots
film

"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star

ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
tech

Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Sport
bottom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee