Delta Airlines today announced it is buying Singapore Airlines’ 49 percent stake in Virgin Atlantic, the United Kingdom’s second-largest cargo airline, for $360 million.
Delta also plans to form a trans-Atlantic joint venture with Virgin Atlantic, which is the major competitor to British Airways on lucrative U.K.-U.S. cargo routes.
Virgin offers belly cargo space on 12 daily passenger flights to the U.S. from London Heathrow, Europe’s fourth largest air cargo hub.
The planned joint venture on the Atlantic which is due to launch in late 2013, requires antitrust immunity from U.K. and U.S. regulators to permit coordinated schedules and pricing and shared costs and revenues.
Sir Richard Branson, the flamboyant billionaire entrepreneur who founded Virgin Atlantic in 1984, said he has no plans to sell his controlling 51 percent stake in the airline.
Virgin booked a pretax loss of £80.2 million ($128 million) in the fiscal year to February 29, 2012. Its cargo unit boosted revenue by 7 percent to a record £239.6 million ($383 million).
Singapore Airlines paid £600 million ($960 million) for its 49 percent stake in 1999 and has written down 96 percent of goodwill from the transaction.