Virgin Atlantic in talks for London IPO in the autumn

Sir Richard Branson's stake in the airline he founded in 1984 likely to fall below 50% for the first time

Virgin Atlantic Airways, the flagship airline founded by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, may float its shares on the London Stock Exchange later this year amid expectations for transatlantic air travel recovery and pent-up demand.

The airline is in discussions about making its debut public listing with institutional investors, who have had a "positive" reaction to management presentations led by airline executives, and an announcement of its intentions to go public is likely in the autumn, Sky News reported on Saturday, citing sources.

Bankers at Citi and Barclays have been hired to oversee the listing, Sky News said.

Virgin Atlantic is majority-owned by Sir Richard's Virgin Group, which holds a 51 per cent stake in the airline. The potential IPO would be the first time since the airline was established in 1984 that it has sold shares to the public - and Mr Branson is likely to relinquish overall control of the company, according to Sky News.

The Covid-19 pandemic decimated demand for air travel, particularly for long-haul trips, a segment that is expected to be the slowest to recover. Virgin Atlantic has been among the worst-hit carriers, mainly because of its dependence on the lucrative UK-US flights that have been subject to restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment outside of normal business hours.

Virgin Atlantic executives, including Mr Branson, are said to back the idea of a listing to provide additional future opportunities to raise money during the post-Covid recovery period and beyond, Sky News said.

A presentation to London City investors in the past few days is said to focus on Virgin Atlantic's strong positioning to take advantage of pent-up demand for international travel, the UK-based news outlet reported.

Updated: August 7th 2021, 1:49 PM
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