Virgin Atlantic delays IPO plans to focus on US

Delay could strengthen Richard Branson-owned operator's price at float

FILE PHOTO: A Virgin Atlantic passenger aircraft prepares for take off from Gatwick Airport in southern England, Britain, October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
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Virgin Atlantic Airways has slowed plans for a cash-raising initial public offering in the autumn to focus on the US after Joe Biden lifted a ban on European visitors last week.

Airlines have cautiously begun to add flights between the US and Europe, but Asia isn’t likely to open up to outsiders until early next year.

The long-distance flights that Virgin Atlantic specialises in have lagged behind shorter routes in recovering from the travel slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic early last year.

The airline survived thanks to a £1.2 billion ($1.6bn) rescue package from owners and lenders after the UK government refused it access to state funds with a sale-leaseback deal in January providing $230 million in added funding.

Mr Branson, 71, provided the bulk of £160m round of financing in March from his own pocket.

Virgin Atlantic, founded in 1984 by the British billionaire, has never sold stock to the public. The company is currently majority-owned by his Virgin Group with the remaining 49 per cent held by Delta Air Lines.

The company said in April it expects losses of more than £1bn this year and last combined, but aims to be profitable from 2022.

Updated: September 29, 2021, 4:01 PM