Following British Airways’ £5.8bn merger with Iberia and its transatlantic pact with American Airlines, Branson has instructed advisers at Deutsche Bank to review Virgin Atlantic’s market position and strategic options.
Branson owns 51 per cent of the airline, which is valued by analysts at anywhere between £500m and £1bn and is the second-largest long-haul carrier operating out of Heathrow airport. Singapore Airlines owns the remaining 49 per cent, having paid a stomping £600m for it in 1999.
As the industry moves towards consolidation, Branson doesn’t want Virgin Atlantic to be left in the cold – but he’s unlikely to attract much interest from rivals unless he hands over majority ownership.
If Branson does sell his stake, we reckon he should invest in Secrets, the fast-expanding table-dancing chain owned by entrepreneur Stephen Less. Branson is a regular guest at the Hammersmith venue and was allegedly close to a deal with Less in the early noughties.