Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Slows IPO to Focus on U.S. Restart
(Bloomberg) -- Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. has slowed plans for an initial public offering, opting to rebuild its business as travel curbs ease before making the case to investors in 2022, according to a person familiar with the plans.
The surprise lifting of a U.S. ban on European visitors last week is likely to spur demand, restoring vital North Atlantic passenger flows starting in November, said the person, who asked not to be named discussing private funding matters.
Other options for boosting cash reserves remain under consideration, the person said. Virgin Atlantic, controlled by founder Richard Branson, was weighing a London listing as soon as this autumn, Bloomberg reported in August citing a person familiar with the matter.
The delay could strengthen the British carrier’s hand in pricing a share sale. Airlines have cautiously begun to add flights between the U.S. and Europe, but Asia isn’t likely to open up to outsiders until early next year. The long-distance flights that Virgin Atlantic specializes in have lagged shorter routes in recovering from the travel slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic early last year.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic declined to comment. The airline is now working on plans to ramp up the schedule to the U.S.
Added funding would bolster Virgin Atlantic’s resources as carriers chase market share in the comeback, while providing a buffer should new outbreaks of Covid-19 prompt further lockdowns. The carrier averted collapse last year with the support of a 1.2 billion-pound ($1.6 billion) rescue package from owners and lenders after the U.K. government refused it access to state funds.
A sale-leaseback deal provided $230 million in added funding in January, and Branson, 71, provided the bulk of a 160 million-pound round of financing in March.
Virgin Atlantic, founded in 1984 by the British billionaire, has never sold stock to the public. The company is currently majority-owned by Branson’s Virgin Group with the remaining 49% held by Delta Air Lines Inc.
Virgin Atlantic said in April it expects losses of more than 1 billion pounds this year and last combined, but aims to be profitable from 2022.
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