Virgin Latest Buyer: Billionaire Indigo Founder Linked

The billionaire founder and largest shareholder of Indian budget carrier IndiGo is reportedly set to bid for Virgin Australia, according to reports.

Rahul Bhatia will make the approach through his InterGlobe company and has already hired advisory firm Investec.

The revelation is one of a glut of new rumours to emerge ahead of the Friday deadline for expressions of interest.

Others state that the Macquarie, Brookfield joint bid has been scrapped; Sir Richard Branson could invest in the reborn airline through selling a stake in his Galactic space project; and that administrators Deloitte are determined to sell the business as a whole, despite its debts.

Bhatia and his father, Kapil, have an estimated fortune of more than $5 billion, and InterGlobe, of which he owns 51 per cent, has already invested in the local Australian tourism industry.

IndiGo is predominately known as a budget carrier, and his bid would increase rumours that a reborn airline would go back to its low-cost Virgin Blue roots.

The AFR, meanwhile, said that the much-speculated joint bid between Macquarie and Brookfield has broken up, with the latter now deciding whether to go it alone.

The paper’s Street Talk column speculates that Macquarie “pulled the pin” but that it’s unclear as to whether it would emerge as a lone bidder, too.

Finally, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson has confirmed he’s seeking to sell more than 20 per cent of his space flight venture, Virgin Galactic, to raise cash to save Virgin Atlantic, and possibly Virgin Australia.

In a New York Stock Exchange filing, the British billionaire issued a prospectus for the sale of 25 million shares, thought to be worth $742 million.

The Virgin Group specifically stated the proceeds would aid its “leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19”.

As the Friday bidding deadline looms, Deloitte administrator Vaughan Strawbridge is confident he can avoid “breaking up and selling parts of the business”.

Other potential bidders linked include BGB Capital, Wesfarmers and Andrew Forrest, along with rumoured interest from state governments.


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