Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson looking for a buyer for the airline ‘by end of May’

SIR Richard Branson is looking for a buyer for Virgin Atlantic and has ‘set a deadline of end of May’ to stop the airline from going bust.

The billionaire boss has been slammed for seeking a £500million government bailout for the airline but it’s shelved these plans in favour of finding a new investor, reports The Sunday Telegraph.

The airline is said to have appointed investment bank Houlihan Lokey to help find a buyer by the end of next month.

The bank has lined up 100 potential bidders with around half asking for more information, according to sources.

It’s hoped that the investors will inject cash to help write-off debts or provide equity or convertible loans, which could leave Mr Branson’s 51 per cent stake in the business slashed.

Interested parties reportedly include hedge fund Landsdowne Partners, Singapore wealth fund Temasek and Northill Capital, US based firms Centerbridge Partners and Cerberus Capital Management.

If a buyer isn’t found in time, the firm may look to put the airline into administration.

The travel industry has almost stopped operating completely as governments scramble to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Many struggling airlines have been able to access the Treasury’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility loans, including easyJet and Wizz Air, but Virgin Atlantic has failed to meet the criteria for the emergency cash.

In an open letter to his 10,000 employees last week, Mr Branson warned the airline would go bust without support and offered is £80million Necker island as collateral.

On the same day, Virgin Australia went into voluntary administration after failing to secure a government bailout.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told The Sun that a deadline hasn’t been set in the search for a buyer.

They added: “Because of significant costs to our business caused by unprecedented market conditions which the Covid-19 crisis has brought with it, we are exploring all available options to obtain additional external funding.

“Houlihan Lokey has been appointed to assist the process, focusing on private sector funding.

“Meanwhile, we continue to take decisive action to reduce our costs, preserve cash and protect jobs.”

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