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Delta Air Lines buys 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 11th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In a move that will strengthen air ties between the United States and the United Kingdom, U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines has bought Singapore Airlines' 49 percent stake in Britain's Virgin Atlantic for $360 million. The companies have agreed a transatlantic joint venture with Virgin.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Virgin and Delta declared that under the joint venture, both airlines will share costs and revenues on routes between Britain and North America.

Both airlines say they plan to cooperate on services between New York and London, with a total of nine daily round-trip flights from London Heathrow to John F. Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.

"Our new partnership with Virgin Atlantic will strengthen both airlines and provide a more effective competitor between North America and the U.K., particularly on the New York-London route, which is the largest airline route between the U.S. and Europe," Delta Chief Executive Richard Anderson says.

An application with the U.S. Department of Transportation for competition clearance will be presented by both airlines. The deal needs to be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Union's competition regulator.

Under the new agreement, Delta will be able to expand at London's Heathrow airport, which is a highly profitable hub for corporate passengers where landing slots are generally difficult. Virgin is the second-largest carrier at Heathrow after IAG's British Airways.

Europe's busiest airport, Heathrow is operating at close to full capacity after Britain's coalition government blocked its expansion in 2010.

Eccentric British entrepreneur, Virgin's Richard Branson said he would retain his 51 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic and maintain the brand of the airline he founded in 1984.

"The partnership allows both carriers to offer a greatly expanded network at Heathrow and to overcome slot constraints, which have limited the growth and competitive capability of both airlines," Branson said.

The two carriers will operate a total of 31 peak-day round-trip flights between the U.K. and North America, 23 of which operate at London Heathrow.

The agreement between Delta and Virgin will be similar to that operated by American Airlines and IAG's British Airways since 2010 on transatlantic and some European routes.

Singapore Airlines bought 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic for $965 million in 1999, but has been open to selling its stake since at least mid-2011 when a price of $500-$600 million was mooted in markets.

Under pressure from budget airlines, Singapore Airlines has been refocusing on its key markets where it is launching its own budget carrier -- named Scoot, to ply Asian middle-distance routes and bolstering its Asian regional carrier, SilkAir.

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