Delta plots takeover of Branson's Virgin Atlantic: report

Delta Air Lines, the largest US carrier, is planning to take over Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic, The Sunday Times yesterday reported without citing any sources.

Delta offered to buy Singapore Airlines' 49-per cent stake in Virgin, and later, Delta's European partner, Air France-KLM, may buy part of Branson's 51-0per cent stake, which would see the British flamboyant business magnate lose control of his carrier that he launched in 1984.

But the acquisition will to comply with European Union ownership rules, which states that a non-European company cannot own majority stake in a European carrier.

To comply with this rule, Branson may retain a stake, and would, together with the Air France-KLM, hold more than 50 per cent of Virgin Atlantic, the report said.

Branson, the fourth-richest man in the UK, has been mulling the airline's future for years and had in 2010 hired Deutsche Bank to explore offers.

Delta and Air France-KLM is reported to have come close to a deal in February with Virgin Atlantic, but the transaction was called off over price and Branson's rights over the Virgin brand, the paper said.