Branson considers dropping Virgin Atlantic

By Michael Flux, November 9 2010
Branson considers dropping Virgin Atlantic

Bankers are evaluating the current position of British carrier Virgin Atlantic, signaling boss Richard Branson may sell his majority stake in the airline.

The move comes as Atlantic's rival British Airways form an alliance with American Airlines. Branson has strongly opposed the partnership, believing it will lead to reduced competition and price collusion between the airlines, especially on London to US flights. 

Once the deal is implemented, Branson's airline could be muscled out of its London base. British Airways and American Airlines currently have ten times as many slots at Heathrow as Virgin Atlantic, which is also without a major airline alliance. 

Virgin Atlantic currently fly to Australia from London Heathrow Airport. If Branson's concerns are to be believed, prices may be set to rise on the route.

Sir Richard has a 51% stake in the carrier, the remaining 49% is owned by Singapore Airlines. Prospects of them purchasing a majority share are not likely. In fact, Singapore Airlines has made a number of attempts to sell off its portion of the airline in the past.

The news of a possible sell-off comes as bad timing for Australia's Virgin Blue. The local carrier was hoping for an alliance with its British cousin in order to gain some access to the Asian market, but this is unlikely for now. Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway recently told the Sydney Morning Herald, ''I am sure you will see more co-operation over time...but that is something for the future.''

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