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Richard Branson in line for £110m French Virgin Mobile windfall


Sir Richard Branson and Carphone Warehouse are set to collect windfalls of £110 million each after agreeing the sale of their French mobile joint venture, Virgin Mobile.

The French version of Virgin Mobile, which is separate from the British version run by Virgin Media, has been snapped up by French giant Numericable for 325 million euros (£265 million).

Branson’s empire and Britain’s Carphone each hold stakes of around 46 per cent, with management holding the remainder. Virgin Mobile launched in France in 2006.

The decision to sell comes a day after Carphone agreed a £3.8 billion merger with Dixons to create a British electricals giant. But those close to Carphone said the timing of the disposal was coincidental.

Analysts reckoned Carphone has been looking for some time to sell its French joint venture, which reported an 8.6 per cent slump in revenues in its latest quarterly results.

It is understood Carphone has no plans to return the £110 million windfall to shareholders. The Virgin Mobile sale comes amid a frenzy of consolidation in France’s telecoms sector.

The French government today confirmed Orange, the country’s biggest mobile operator, in which the state holds a major stake, is in talks to buy number three player Bouygues Telecom.