Etihad Airways is reportedly mulling an offer for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic, though Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier has refused to confirm or deny reports it has expressed interest in a deal.
Etihad’s CEO James Hogan wrote to Branson’s advisor, Deutsche Bank, to express interest in buying a controlling stake in the Heathrow-carrier, which was put up for sale in November, the Sunday Times reported.
A spokesperson for Etihad refused to comment on a possible tie-up.
“We talk regularly and frequently to many airlines and a range of other businesses from all over the world about business issues and opportunities,” the spokesperson said.
Branson last week said he may sell his 51 percent stake in the carrier, if he decides Virgin Atlantic needs more than an alliance to allow it to compete with mergers such as that between British Airways and Madrid-based Lineas Aereas de Espana.
The remaining 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic is held by Singapore Airlines, following a $930m deal in 2000.
The airline is expected to offload its stake, after branding it an “underperforming” investment.
Etihad last month said it would increase frequencies on routes from Abu Dhabi to key European cities, such as Paris and Milan, in a bid to secure a greater slice of the corporate travel market.
The state-backed airline announced a 29 percent rise in revenues to $2.95bn in 2010. Etihad has a stated aim of achieving profitability by 2012.