A strategic review of Virgin Atlantic could see Sir Richard Branson give up control of his airline, a report today claims.

The Virgin Group founder, who owns 51% of the airline, has asked Deutsche Bank to study the airline’s “market position” in the wake of British Airways’ transatlantic tie-up with American Airlines, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The “wide-ranging” review includes assessing how Sir Richard can maximise value from his airline, which is 49% owned by Singapore Airlines and valued by analysts at anywhere between £500 million and £1 billion.

An insider said that Deutsche was “looking at the whole landscape,” the newspaper reports.

One option would see Branson sell down his stake to allow Virgin Atlantic to become part of a wider airline grouping – potentially with Lufthansa or a Gulf carrier, such as Emirates or Etihad.

He would then be expected to receive royalty payments for use of the Virgin brand.

One aspect of Deutsche’s work is to evaluate whether Virgin Atlantic should attempt to join either the Star Alliance or SkyTeam – but either move could trigger a change of ownership.

The airline remains a major player at Heathrow, with around 3% of the slots, but one outside any of the three main airline groupings – the Star Alliance, featuring Lufthansa and United, SkyTeam, including Air France and Delta, and BA’s Oneworld..

Virgin’s position is complicated by the holding by SIA, a Star Alliance member which paid £600 million for its stake in Virgin Atlantic in 1999.

A long-term option remains a merger between Virgin Atlantic and Bmi, another Star member now owned by Lufthansa.

One deal that remains under consideration would see Sir Richard inject Virgin Atlantic into a new airline company and Lufthansa inject Bmi, according to today’s report.

While the German carrier would take majority control of the new company, it would use Virgin’s brand and its partners in the Star Alliance to take on BA and Oneworld out of Heathrow. SIA could see its stake diluted or exit.

Mark McVicar, an analyst at Nomura, was quoted as saying: “Virgin is becoming increasingly detached as BA, Iberia and American get up and running. An independent airline strategy looks tougher now.”

Virgin declined to comment on the claims.