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Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Fri Oct 12, 2001 10:01 pm

Friday October 12, 4:15 PM (Singapore)

SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--U.K.-based Virgin group Chairman Richard Branson said Friday the group's airline unit, Virgin Atlantic, has sufficient funds to see itself through the current airline industry downturn.

Branson made the statement on the sidelines of a press event for the launch of Virgin Mobile, a joint-venture between Virgin Group and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd.

Virgin Atlantic has "good cash reserves", Branson said, and he has no plans to sell Virgin Group's 51% stake in Virgin Atlantic.

"We will keep our 51% stake in Virgin Atlantic ... no matter what happens," he said.

Branson also confirmed that he has held a meeting with Singapore Airlines Ltd.'s Chief Executive Cheong Choong Kong and that they "compared notes" on the impact on the airline industry of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Asked whether the discussion touched upon Virgin Atlantic's funding requirements, Branson said they "weren't discussing those kinds of issues."

SIA owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic.

Branson said Cheong and he didn't talk about bringing SIA into Virgin Blue as a new investor.

If SIA participates in the revival of Ansett Australia, Virgin Blue will compete with the new Ansett, Branson said.

SIA is in talks with Ansett's administrators on working as a consultant to design a blueprint for a restructured Ansett. SIA may also have the opportunity to take a management role or an equity stake in the new Ansett.

Branson said he remains hopeful that the global airline sector will see a turnaround in six months.

Although he "didn't specifically talk about the forecast" with SIA's Cheong, "we both lived through the Gulf War crisis (in 1991) and we both saw things coming back within about six months," Branson said.

-By Shen Hong, Dow Jones Newswires; 65-4154-156; hong.shen@dowjones.com
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eta unknown
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RE: Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Fri Oct 12, 2001 10:59 pm

Sounds more like damage control- read between the lines.

RE: Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Sat Oct 13, 2001 12:12 am

Spot on, ETA Unknown - standby for an announcement re (1) change of ownership of Virgin Blue; and (2) additional cash for VS in exchange for ownership of Virgin Blue.
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RE: Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Sat Oct 13, 2001 12:32 am


In response to questions on how he felt about SIA taking on a managerial role in Ansett, Australia's second-ranked carrier, Branson said it was a separate matter that was up to the airline but said his discount Australian carrier Virgin Blue would compete aggressively in the Australian market.

"What plans SIA have in Australia is up to them and...if they want to help manage a new Ansett, good luck to them. We will compete very hard with Virgin Blue," he said.

Ansett was placed into administration and its fleet grounded after it was orphaned by parent Air New Zealand in September. A skeleton Ansett Mark II service has since resumed .

The collapse of Ansett has gives Virgin Blue the chance to dramatically boost its market share from around seven percent if it can grab additional capacity in time.

Branson said the carrier was rapidly expanding as fast as it could but ruled out taking on Ansett's planes.

"We haven't really wanted to take on Ansett's planes as such because they are quite old. We have the youngest fleet in the world and we want to keep it that way," he said.

Branson also said he might consider a pre-float of Virgin Blue shares as many investors had expressed interest in taking a stake in the airline.

"We may do a pre-float placing with Virgin Blue with some of the investors that have expressed interest in the next two to three months and then do a proper float at the end of next year," he said.

Virgin Blue had appointed Goldman Sachs on Tuesday to advise on funding options, including hunting out a cornerstone investor.

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eta unknown
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RE: Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Sat Oct 13, 2001 1:54 am

Several years ago I worked in the Public Relations Dept. of a South-East Asian airline. You would be amazed at the drivel I was forced to write for internal company newsletters and press releases similar to the above. Oh how I remember the philosophical writing scenario well...
1) What do I know
2) What do I want the public to know

and most importantly...
3) What do I want the public NOT to know

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RE: Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Sat Oct 13, 2001 1:55 am

ETA Unknown,

Could that airline be SIA by any chance? Big grin Big grin Big grin
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eta unknown
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RE: Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Sat Oct 13, 2001 3:10 am

Actually it wasn't SIA (that would have been MUCH more political and interesting)!

Best regards,
ETA Unknown
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RE: Branson (S/pore):Virgin Finances Ok

Sat Oct 13, 2001 5:59 am

Anyone can fly, only the best Soar.

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