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Virgin Atlantic to exit Malaysia’s AirAsia X

KUALA LUMPUR, Jun 28 – British business magnate Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways is expected to sell its 10 percent stake in AirAsia X to existing shareholders for more than $21 million, a report said Thursday.

The move comes as Malaysia-based AirAsia X, one of the world’s few long-haul budget carriers, prepares for listing at the end of this year.

“The stake (belonging to Virgin Atlantic) will be taken up by Aero Ventures and AirAsia on a pro rata basis,” The Edge financial newspaper said.

AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani told AFP he was not aware of plans for Virgin to exit the firm.

“We can’t say anything. We are not privy to any of the discussions,” he said.

The Edge said that after the share sale, several individuals including Tony Fernandes who is group CEO of regional carrier AirAsia, together with business partner Kamarudin Meranum, will collectively hold 60 percent of AirAsia X.

The balance of 40 percent will be held by AirAsia, Japan’s Orix and Bahrain-based Manara Consortium.

Virgin’s involvement with AirAirAsia X when it launched in 2007 helped boost confidence in the airline at a time when the future did not look bright for long-haul budget carriers.

AirAsia X focuses on medium- and long-haul flights of more than four hours within Asia, while main carrier AirAsia operates shorter routes from its Kuala Lumpur hub.

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AirAsia X recently ceased services to London, Paris, Delhi and Mumbai to cut costs and is concentrating on lucrative routes including those to Australia and China.

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