Virgin Atlantic parent sells 10% stake in AirAsia X

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Virgin Group has divested its 10% stake in Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia X, citing a desire to focus on the company's basket of branded Virgin subsidiaries.

"We now prioritise resources where we can have the most impact and also use the Virgin brand," says the company in an emailed statement.

"While AirAsia X has been a very successful investment for us, it does not use the Virgin brand, and we feel it is the right time to exit to focus on our branded portfolio."

Malaysian media reports suggest that the stake was valued at more than $21 million, though Virgin did not confirm the final transaction value. The 10% holding has been acquired by existing shareholders in AirAsia X.

Virgin originally acquired a 20% stake in the long-haul, low-cost carrier in 2007, since which time the group has gradually reduced the size of its holding.

AirAsia X expects to launch an initial public offering (IPO) between October and November of this year, group chief executive Tony Fernandes recently announced. It raised 4.5 billion baht ($141 million) by listing subsidiary Thai AirAsia in May, and is also planning a flotation of its Indonesian offshoot by the first quarter of 2013.

High oil prices have affected AirAsia X more severely than many of its long-haul competitors, due to its absence of higher-yielding premium passengers.

The low-cost carrier withdrew its London and Paris services in March, though it later said it would consider re-entering the European market after taking delivery of its first Airbus A350 in 2015. It currently operates nine A330s, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database, and has two A340s in storage.

"We are proud to have worked with Tony to develop the initial business case for AirAsia X, and wish them well for the future," Virgin says.