Virgin plans alliances with foreign carriers

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RICHARD Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways plans to sign new alliances with foreign carriers in a drive to increase profitability. Mr Branson said alliances would be announced over the next few months covering America, the Far East and Europe, writes Mary Fagan.

The approach in Europe is to forge links with carriers that want to use the Virgin brand. The airline already has an agreement with South Eastern European Airways, a Greek carrier. Virgin has also been approached by another airline, thought to be Cityjet, which wants to use the Virgin brand on the London-Dublin route.

In the US and Far East, Virgin is discussing code-sharing alliances but is not thought to be considering any deal involving an equity stake. Code-sharing involves airlines sharing their designator codes on interconnecting flights to give a single longer route in air travel booking systems.

Rhino Group will almost double its number of computer and video games stores with the purchase for pounds 12.5m of 30 shops from Virgin Retail, the joint venture run by Virgin Group and WH Smith. Rhino is raising pounds 12.9m through a five-for-nine rights issue of 29.8 million shares at 44p.