Etihad and Virgin tightlipped on reports of links

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Reports that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways is interested in taking a stake in the UK's Virgin Atlantic have met with silence from both parties.

UK newspaper the Sunday Times reports that Etihad has contacted Virgin's financial advisors, Deutsche Bank, with a view to merging with or even taking over the UK airline.

This follows Virgin Atlantic's decision late last year to ask Deutsche Bank to conduct a strategic review of its future options. These options include "looking at the world of alliances", according to a Virgin statement.

"We are one of the very last independent carriers with an unrivalled position in the industry, which is why we are carrying out this strategic review," says Virgin.

The review is still in its early stages and no further comment will be made until it is completed, says a Virgin Atlantic spokewoman, who declines to comment on the reports of Etihad interest.

A spokeswoman for Etihad adds: "We have no comment other than that we talk regularly and frequently to many airlines and a range of other businesses from all over the world about business issues and opportunities."

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson owns 51% of the airline's shares, with Singapore Airlines holding the remaining 49%.