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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 11:40 GMT
Virgin Blue plans market debut
Richard Branson
Richard Branson is cashing in his success
Australian budget airline Virgin Blue, which is 50% owned by Richard Branson, is to go for a stock market listing.

Virgin Blue will raise 400m Australian dollars ($280m; 166m) from selling newly-issued shares in the flotation, said co-owners Patrick Group.

Mr Branson's Virgin Group will cash in part of its stake in the Australian airline by selling shares worth 100m Australian dollars as part of the flotation.

That would make the overall value of the launch, on the Sydney stock market, 500m Australian dollars.

Virgin Blue has yet to set a date, but Patrick Co said it would release more details on 11 November, and reports claim the float will take place in December.

Virgin Blue has won nearly one third of the Australian domestic travel market since it launched in 2000.

Market beater

Its pre-tax profits tripled in the year to March 2003, coming in at 158m Australian dollars, up from 47m Australian dollars a year earlier.

At the time, chief executive Brett Godfrey said the figures proved the firm's budget model worked even in times of global uncertainty.

The long-awaited float had been expected to go ahead in June, but the company put its plans on hold until the battered sector recovered from the impact of the Iraq war and the respiratory disease Sars.

Virgin Blue also rode out a downturn in Australian tourism sparked by the Bali bombings.

The group managed to insulate itself by concentrating on the country's internal flights market as Australians took holidays closer to home.

Hitches ahead?

Patrick Co said that despite the industry facing hard times, Virgin Blue is forecasting profits of around 150m in the year to March 2004.

But Virgin Blue's flotation plans could face a few hitches.

Qantas' decision to launch its own low cost domestic carrier means Virgin is facing further competition.

Meanwhile, recent no-frills airlines floats have not consistently outperformed.

While Ireland's Ryanair has seen its shares increase eightfold since its 1997 debut, the UK's Easyjet has fallen 7% since 2000.

Richard Branson's Brussels-based Virgin Express has sunk 95% since its 1998 debut which may not induce much confidence in prospective buyers.

Virgin Blue triples profit
15 May 03  |  Business
Branson's Virgin Blue boosts fleet
16 Jan 03  |  Business
Branson gives staff Virgin paradise
16 May 03  |  Business
Virgin Blue seeks new airspace
30 Aug 02  |  Business
Watchdog takes Qantas to court
07 May 02  |  Business
Branson mulls Virgin Blue float
15 Apr 02  |  Business
Branson beefs up Virgin Blue
12 Mar 02  |  Business

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