Aviation

Branson settles for smaller Virgin Australia stake, but is now airline’s second-largest shareholder

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

Virgin Group is now the second-largest shareholder of Virgin Australia, despite settling for a smaller equity stake in the rebooted airline.

The group, which was founded by charismatic billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, confirmed to Travel Weekly that it now owns a five per cent equity stake in Virgin Australia, making it the airline’s second-biggest shareholder.

Prior to Virgin Australia entering administration back in April, Virgin Group owned roughly 10 per cent of the company’s shares, with Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, Nanshan Group and HNA Group each owning approximately 20 per cent.

Virgin Group also confirmed that it has resigned a licensing agreement with Virgin Australia’s new owner, Bain Capital, for use of the Virgin brand. However, both Virgin Group and Bain refused to disclose the value of the new licensing agreement.

In a statement provided to Travel Weekly, Branson said he was delighted that Virgin Australia was ready for take-off once more, “soaring out of administration with a clear future direction to fly towards”.

“We’re very optimistic about the future and enormously proud of all of the Virgin Australia team,” he said.

Virgin Group CEO Josh Bayliss added: “Virgin Group is very pleased to be Virgin Australia’s second-biggest shareholder and to be working with Bain, our long-term partners on Virgin Voyages, to participate fully in the revival of the airline.

“Led by Jayne Hrdlicka, we are confident that Virgin Australia’s focus on enabling its incredible people to provide an outstanding service for customers will see the airline provide strong competition to Qantas and an exceptional experience for flyers.”

Earlier this week, Virgin Australia’s new boss outlined the airline’s future direction under Bain, which will see it compete as a mid-market carrier.

Virgin Australia also received another post-administration boost yesterday, with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) granting interim authorisation for the airline to cooperate with Alliance Airlines on 41 regional routes and two short-haul international routes.

Virgin pilots’ association to join forces with TWU

Image source: iStock/jax10289

In other news, the association representing Virgin Australia Group pilots (VIPA) and the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) are preparing to sign a memorandum of understanding with the intention of moving towards amalgamation.

The move will kick-off talks on details on formalising the relationship between both unions over the coming weeks.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine said an amalgamation would ensure the best outcome for members of both unions.

“The TWU and VIPA worked very well together during these past few months to get Virgin back on track after it went into administration,” he said.

“Our common aim has been to help make Virgin the strong second airline again that Australia needs. We know that the way to do this is through Virgin’s dedicated and well-trained workforce.

“By coming together, we can make a strong case for high standards and work to protect the interests of those who matter most: Virgin workers and the travelling public.

“It is vital there is a plan and a pathway out of the pandemic crisis for the aviation industry. The federal government is failing to do this, but workers in TWU and VIPA are pushing ahead to make it happen.”

VIPA president John Lyons said an amalgamation would bring workers together to fight for Virgin’s future.

“The TWU and VIPA have clear common interests and it makes sense to stand together formally to push for Virgin’s future,” he said.

“We have stood together during the administration process and in holding the new owners to account. We have jointly made the case to the federal government that they need to do more to support Virgin and the rest of the aviation industry.

“An amalgamation would allow us to develop and deepen this cooperation and to fight for one of Australia’s most important industries. The Australian economy depends on a robust aviation industry and we intend to push for its survival.”

Earlier this month, the Senate passed a motion setting up an inquiry into the future of the aviation industry.


Featured image source: Jen Dainer/Virgin Australia

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