Delta Air Lines is being strongly tipped for taking a controlling stake in Virgin Atlantic.

The US carrier is reported by the Sunday Times to have offered to buy Singapore Airlines’ 49% share in the UK carrier.

If that goes through, Delta’s European partner Air France-KLM would then seek to buy part of founder Sir Richard Branson’s 51% stake, meaning he would surrender control. However, he could retain a stake together with the French-Dutch carrier.

Branson appointed Deutsche Bank to consider options for the carrier two years ago.

Delta and Air France-KLM came close to a deal soon after that, in 2011, but Branson did not want to give up control of the brand.

The Sunday Times reported that “aviation sources” said the pair are talking again after Delta approached SIA.  But talks are “at an early stage”.

SIA confirmed that it was “in discussions with interested parties” to possibly divest its shareholding in Vitgin Atlantic without naming potential bidders. It added that the talks may or may not lead to a transaction.Virgin sources reportedly said Virgin America would not be part of a Virgin Atlantic deal.

Virgin Atlantic said: “We are always talking to many airlines on a number of different matters, but we never comment on the details of these discussions.”

Delta declined to comment.