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Rivals circle around Virgin Atlantic

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Air France-KLM and Delta Airlines have joined forces in seeking Richard Branson’s 51 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic.

Reports say that Delta and Air France-KLM have together commissioned analysts from Goldman Sachs to advise on the possible acquisition of the majority share of Virgin Atlantic, which is estimated to be valued anywhere from £500m to £1bn.

Last November, Richard Branson hired Deutsche Bank to evaluate strategic options for Virgin Atlantic, which has seen some trouble and has failed to yet join a major alliance.

Among options reportedly advised to Richard Branson were to begin codeshares via a partnership with another carrier, join an alliance or relinquish dominant power of the airline. The option to sell-off the 49 per cent share in Virgin Atlantic held by Singapore Airlines, which it had acquired in 1999 for £600m, is also under consideration.

The Air France-KLM and Delta consortium is likely to go head-to-head with Etihad Airways. The airline, owned by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, is said to have drafted in Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise it on a possible deal.

Virgin says: “Virgin Atlantic is a strong, independent business with a good growth position at both London Heathrow and Gatwick, so we are not surprised there is interest in us.”

Richard Branson founded Virgin Atlantic in 1984.

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