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Virgin Active: will it float?

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Virgin Active, Sir Richard Branson’s gym chain, is up for sale, our sister title Real Deals reports. Virgin Active is looking for a buyer, but is also considering listing on the London Stock Exchange.

CVC, KKR, Blackstone and Advent are already holding talks with Virgin Active regarding a £1bn deal. According to the Guardian, Virgin Active – the UK’s second-largest gym operator, which also has operations in Italy, Spain, Portugal and South Africa – was approached by the buyout houses about a sale.

Virgin Active could also float. “We would make a good public company,” chief executive Matthew Bucknall has been reported as saying in the past. Recent volatility in the markets has cooled enthusiasm for this, but a successful Ocado float could well re-open the IPO market.

Virgin Active, whose sale is being advised by Goldman Sachs, has performed well through the recession, growing revenues by 15 per cent in 2009 to £391m.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group owns 76 per cent of Virgin Active, with the remaining stake held by Bridgepoint and Permira. These two firms acquired their stakes in Virgin Active when they sold the Holmes Place chain to Virgin in October 2006.

Virgin Active is currently run by chief executive Matthew Bucknall and chairman Richard Baker, who was previously chief exec of Boots.

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