Singapore in talks to sell Virgin Atlantic stake

A Virgin Atlantic passenger jet flies over houses as it prepares to land at Heathrow Airport in west London on April 21, 2010. Europe's airspace reopened for business as Iceland's volcano lost its fury Wednesday, leaving passengers scrambling to get home and recriminations flying over the 1.7 billion dollar cost of the crisis. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images) BEN STANSALL

SINGAPORE Singapore Airlines said Monday it's in talks to sell its 49 percent stake in billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic.

The airline said in a statement it's in discussions with "interested parties" about a sale.

A person with knowledge of the possible deal told The Associated Press that Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) is in talks with Singapore Airlines about buying the Virgin Atlantic stake. The person requested anonymity because the talks are ongoing.

Virgin Atlantic is the second-biggest airline at London's Heathrow airport, behind British Airways; BA is a partner with Delta competitor American Airlines. Takeoff and landing rights there are limited, a barrier for airlines that want to add flights.

A Delta partnership with Virgin Atlantic on U.S.-London routes would allow it to benefit from Virgin's established position at Heathrow.

Some 51 percent of Virgin Atlantic, which was founded in 1984, is owned by Branson's Virgin Group. Singapore Airlines bought its stake from Branson in early 2000 for 600.3 million British pounds.

Singapore Airlines said in its statement that the talks may or may not result in a deal.

The London-New York route is one of the world's major air corridors, and Delta has been undertaking a major expansion of its hubs at New York's LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports.

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