Virgin to decide whether to appeal BMI decision

Virgin Atlantic will decide within a month whether to appeal against the European Union’s decision to allow British Airways parent IAG to acquire BMI.

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, describing the BA-BMI takeover clearance as “a travesty, just unbelievable,” said: “You just wonder whoever’s working in the competition authority, whether they realised which department they were walking into the morning they made that decision.”

When asked if he may appeal, he said: “All I’m saying is we’re considering our position very, very seriously.”

Sir Richard was quoted by financial news agency Bloomberg at the opening of a new route by Virgin America in Philadelphia.

IAG has said the deal is likely to be completed by about April 20, with BMI’s operation integrated with BA at Heathrow in the following months.

Virgin Atlantic “inevitably” will have more alliance partners and there is “always a possibility” the carrier will add investors, Sir Richard said.

He declined to be more specific about possible arrangements and said he has no immediate announcements.

American Airlines seeking of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection has caused the industry to be “somewhat in turmoil” and has slowed the development of alliances, he added.

Virgin American chief executive David Cush said the US carrier is “watching what goes on” in fuel markets as the airline weighs a possible initial public offering next year.

Sir Richard said he would retain his stake in the carrier after an IPO.

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