Singapore Airlines set to sell off its slice of Virgin Atlantic

 

Virgin Atlantic could see a bidding war erupt over the 49% stake not owned by its billionaire founder Sir Richard Branson, after current owner Singapore Airlines said it was “in discussions with interested parties” about a sale.

Delta, the second-biggest United States airline, was thought to be a front-runner to snap up the share as it aims to move its focus from the crowded European market to south-east Asia and Australia.

Singapore, which bought its stake in Virgin for £600.3 million in 1999, said it was “in discussions with interested parties concerning the possible divestment of its 49% shareholding in Virgin Atlantic”. To bid for Virgin successfully, Delta would have to invest alongside Air France-KLM, its European partner, due to EU aviation rules. But analysts said Lufthansa and Gulf carriers such as Etihad Airways and Emirates could also be looking at Virgin. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad has been buying up stakes in carriers including Aer Lingus and Air Berlin to gain access into Europe’s short-haul network. Speculation is also growing that Sir Richard Branson could sell his controlling stake in Virgin as part of a deal.

A spokesman for Virgin Atlantic said: “This is a matter for Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic will not comment further at this time.”

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