Branson ‘not about to relinquish control of Virgin’

Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson is unlikely to relinquish control of the airline as part of any deal by Singapore Airlines to offload its holding.

The disclosure came from the carrier’s chief executive Steve Ridgway amid speculation that Delta Air Lines is considering a bid for SIA’s 49% shareholding, with European partner Air France-KLM also lined up for a stake

Ridgway told news agency Bloomberg after SIA confirmed that it may dispose of its shareholding: “He [Branson] is the majority shareholder.

“What they said today, it’s about Singapore selling some or all of their stake.”

SIA is looking to focus on local markets where opportunities are opening up at the same time that Gulf carriers Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways present new challenges, Ridgway said.

“India has opened up, China has opened up and there are three fearsome competitors on their western side,” he said.

“That’s what their agenda is about. I’ve got to leave it to Singapore now, they’ve made that stock-exchange announcement and we just need to let them work that through.”

Virgin Atlantic is “well down the road” in choosing a new chief executive, he said, adding that the aim is to make an announcement before Christmas or slightly after and that candidates will not be put off by the possibility of a new investor.

“All these things are about opportunities,” Ridgway said. “If there is a good opportunity there the job remains as attractive as it is today.”

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