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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 06:19 GMT
Branson mulls Virgin Blue sale
Virgin Blue
Selling a majority stake would give Virgin permission to fly across the Tasman Sea
Sir Richard Branson is considering the sale of a majority stake in his Australian airline, Virgin Blue, according to the company's chief executive, Brett Godfrey.

Any proceeds from such a sale are likely to be ploughed into Virgin's burgeoning mobile phones business.

Talks have been held with up to a dozen interested buyers, Mr Godfrey said in an interview with Australian television.

Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson's airline has become the second largest in Australia
The stake in the low cost airline, now the second largest airline in Australia after Air New Zealand's Aussie subsidiary Ansett's recent collapse, may be sold next year, he said.

Virgin Blue had already signalled that a 49% stake in the carrier was up for grabs, but it has not previously expressed a willingness to give up control.

"From my point of view and from the company's point of view that would be a good thing and by that I mean Richard is open to that idea. He doesn't have to have control," Mr Godfrey told the Nine Network's Business Sunday programme.

However, Mr Godfrey insisted that the sale of a 49% stake remained its favoured option.

New Zealand

The sale would raise cash for other Virgin brands, including the airline Virgin Atlantic and the company's US mobile phone venture.

In addition, a sale of a majority stake would convert the carrier's status from foreign owned to Australian owned.

That would enable it to serve the lucrative trans-Tasman route between Australia and New Zealand.

See also:

18 Oct 01 | Business
Virgin sheds Our Price stores
16 May 01 | Business
Branson raises trans-Tasman stakes
01 May 01 | Business
Airlines clash down under
31 Aug 00 | Business
Virgin Blue takes off down under
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