Virgin Australia has Attracted Several Suitors, Says Richard Branson

26th May 2016

Several parties are very interested in buying all or part of the Air New Zealand's stake in Virgin Australia, says the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson.

Mr. Branson also said that talks with potential buyers for Air NZ's stake are already under way regarding a possible deal.

At the moment, he said in a Thursday interview, it's not clear if Virgin Group will decide to up its stake in Virgin Australia. Currently, the Group owns around 10 per cent share of VA.

About this, Branson said:

"There are discussions going on with them and a number of different parties and we will watch with interest what happens. Whether or not we will end up buying it, we will have to see. I am a great believer in Virgin Australia."

Apart from Air New Zealand, which is about to sell its 26 per cent stake, and Virgin Group's 10 per cent in the Australian carrier, other two major shareholders are Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines (SIA). Commenting on whether SIA is planning to increase its share (currently owns 23.11 per cent in VA after increasing it from previous 22.91 per cent) in order to stop foreign airlines from buying the stake on their own or together with Etihad, Branson said:

"There have been approaches from airlines that are considerable and I think that add a lot to Virgin Australia. Those discussions are going on. So I cannot, I am afraid, go into details."

Last month, Virgin Group sold Virgin America to Alaska Air Group for US$2.6 billion, despite opposition from the billionaire, but he said he didn't have enough voting shares to block the deal and was effectively outvoted.

About the sale of his American carrier, Branson said:

"If they decide not to keep the brand, we'll start again in America and we have some plans if it doesn't happen. I think Alaska, when they do their research, will realize that what they brought was the Virgin America ethos and to destroy that would destroy the value of what they spent in buying it."