Virgin America weighs sale after receiving interest

Richard Branson-owned Virgin America Inc is reaching out to potential buyers about a sale of part or all of the company, insiders have said.

The carrier which flies to destinations throughout the U.S. and Mexico is working with a financial adviser after receiving takeover interest. No decision has been made and Virgin America may choose not to pursue a sale, they said.

Shares in Virgin America rose 13 percent after noon in New York to $34.39, valuing the company at about $1.5 billion.

A representative for Virgin America said the company doesn’t comment on speculation concerning mergers or acquisitions.

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The Burlingame, California-based airline sold stock in a $353 million initial public offering less than 18 months ago, pricing its shares at $23 apiece.

Virgin America last month reported 2015 adjusted net income of $201.5 million, the most in the company’s history. The airline received five new Airbus A320 aircrafts last year with plans for five more this year, after slowing growth in 2012 to focus on long-term survival. It expects to grow capacity by 10 percent a year in 2017 and 2018.

Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group, which also owns stakes in gyms, hotels and telecommunications companies around the world. Virgin America started flying from San Francisco in 2007.

“The American airline system, 10 years ago, didn’t have a decent airline, so I thought let’s launch Virgin America,” Branson said in an interview with Cory Johnson on Bloomberg TV last week.

“We attract both leisure people and tech people who want to be flown in a slightly more hip airline than our competitors,” he said, speaking from one of the company’s airplanes as he helped launch a new route from San Francisco to Denver.
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