WSJ: U.S. Investors Sell Virgin America Stakes

Pitot

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Does anyone have the rest of this article. I guess you have to have a subscription to WSJ.

The U.S.-based investors in Virgin America, the discount airline founded by Sir Richard Branson, recently cashed in their stakes in the startup carrier, according to people familiar with the situation -- raising new questions about whether the airline can continue to comply with U.S. airline "citizenship" rules.
Under federal law, a U.S.-based air carrier must be at least 75% owned and controlled by American investors. Since privately held Virgin America's inception, hedge funds Cyrus Capital Partners LP and Black Canyon Capital LLC owned almost 77% of the airline's capital, along with a few other undisclosed U.S. investors. An investment vehicle of London-based Virgin Group Ltd. controls the rest. ...
 

Cheeta

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Does anyone have the rest of this article. I guess you have to have a subscription to WSJ.
Wall Street Journal
By PAULO PRADA

The U.S.-based investors in Virgin America, the discount airline founded by Sir Richard Branson, recently cashed in their stakes in the startup carrier, according to people familiar with the situation -- raising new questions about whether the airline can continue to comply with U.S. airline "citizenship" rules.

Under federal law, a U.S.-based air carrier must be at least 75% owned and controlled by American investors. Since privately held Virgin America's inception, hedge funds Cyrus Capital Partners LP and Black Canyon Capital LLC owned almost 77% of the airline's capital, along with a few other undisclosed U.S. investors. An investment vehicle of London-based Virgin Group Ltd. controls the rest. Under the terms of the British group's agreement with the U.S. investors, the shareholders after a period of time could choose to sell their stakes back to Virgin Group, recouping their full investment plus an 8% return.

After weeks of negotiations, the U.S. investors last week exercised their option to sell, and Virgin Group has already paid them, according to people familiar with the situation. No new investors have committed to buying stakes, according to people familiar with the situation.

Luring new shareholders amid the ongoing recession appears increasingly difficult. Not only are fewer potential investors available because of the continuing credit crunch, but the financial prospects for airlines are growing worse because of weakening demand for travel.

The deteriorating situation for U.S. carriers was a key element in the two hedge funds' decision to sell their stakes. "Everybody prefers cash right now and this is an opportunity to get it," said the person.

Virgin America, known for stylish interiors, leather seats, and high-tech in-flight entertainment system, flies to four cities along the West Coast and to Las Vegas, New York, Washington D.C., and Boston. The airline, which began flying in late 2007 and has thus far received more than $400 million in financing, posted a net loss of $175 million on revenue of $259 million in the first nine months of 2008, according to its most recent financial data as filed with the DOT.

To ensure the airline remains controlled by U.S. investors in the short term, representatives of the departing shareholders will remain on Virgin America's board until new shareholders are found, according to people familiar with the situation. But because those directors will no longer have a financial stake in the airline's performance, competitors fear Virgin America, based in Burlingame, Calif., would be under de-facto control of Virgin Group.

Already, Alaska Airlines, owned by Seattle-based Alaska Air Group Inc., in February asked the Department of Transportation to review whether Virgin America was running afoul of U.S. ownership rules. Alaska, which competes with Virgin America on West Coast routes, filed its petition after word emerged earlier this year that Virgin Group had hired investment bank Lazard Ltd. to look for new investors.

A DOT spokesman said the Alaska petition remains under review.

Alaska said Monday that the sale of the U.S. investors' stakes raises serious questions about "Virgin's true ownership." "This reaffirms the immediate necessity of a rigorous, public review of Virgin's compliance with foreign ownership restrictions," said Caroline Boren, a company spokeswoman.

Virgin America, in a statement, declined to comment on any changes in its ownership structure and said that it continues to comply with U.S. law. "If there is a transaction between the U.S. investors and the Virgin Group," the airline said, "it will remain a private one, within the construct that was approved by the Department of Transportation… We are and will remain in compliance with the DOT foreign ownership rules."
—Susan Carey contributed to this report.
 

Bavarian Chef

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I think that guy behind Family Airlines is calling ...

I bet some MORON will come out of the woodwork and fund this pig.
 

9rj9

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this is branson's graceful exit, he wants out of this money pit while saving face, well heres his chance.
 

Cobra17

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I think that guy behind Family Airlines is calling ...

I bet some MORON will come out of the woodwork and fund this pig.
Not in this economy.
 

Fubijaakr

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Move over, Skybus.
 

fam62c

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The strange thing about airlines is that there always seems to be somebody willing to put up money. It will be very tough to lure new investors in this market but it's possible. I think all that Virgin Group may need to do is offer the same "out clause" with the 8% guaranteed return to new investors. If the payback has an ironclad guarantee from Virgin Group that can't be scuttled in a bankruptcy there may be takers; a guaranteed 8% return is pretty hard to come by lately.

The hard part for Virgin Group will be the decision to even continue or not. That 8% they had to pay out on the capital that exited coupled with the lossses has to make them think twice about this whole deal. I can't imagine that their original business plan ever considered an economy this bad. I don't think that their competitors are going to allow them to raise their fares to a level that will be profitable. LUV and UAL know that they have VA on the ropes and I think they will try to push them over the edge. Virgin Group has to decide how much money they are willing to risk on a venture with no assurance of ever turning a profit. The airline business is tough under ideal circumstances but now it's just plain terrible.
 

Fubijaakr

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fam,

You did notice there's a banking crisis going on didn't you. VA won't get that kind of AMERICAN money and will be history before the daffodils bloom.
 

zman

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It will happen like Skybus half of the employees will find out 6-8 hours later after they officially shut down. I remember one guy that actually tried arguing with me saying no we are still operating.
 

clickclickboom

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If I ran a competing airline I would drop every fare that competes with VA an additional $10 just to drive the final nail..

Want to play on our field and are happy with a negative 50% margin lets just make it a round -75% and end the pain and suffering.

Then the second they fold blast out the press releases offering to accomodate their passengers for a $50 fee to cover the cost and come out smelling like a rose.

I like the concept of VA but i absolutely hate what the travelocity roving gnome ego manic branson represents.

Good Riddance
 

radarlove

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When I was a young puppy pilot, a rich acquaintance who owned a corporate airplane I kept begging to fly started a commuter airline. I asked if I could invest.

He shook his head and said, "What is it about airlines? As soon as I tell people I'm starting an airline, they all pull out their checkbooks. No, you can't invest, it's too risky."

It lasted about nine months or so and went under. Nice guy, good try. I'm glad he didn't take my money.
 

Pogue Mahone

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More than one of you make me ashamed to be associated with this profession.

One only needs to drop by FI for a few minutes to find more loads of self-righteous and self-aggrandizing know it all bullsh1t then I would have thought possible.
 

d.fitz

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More than one of you make me ashamed to be associated with this profession.

One only needs to drop by FI for a few minutes to find more loads of self-righteous and self-aggrandizing know it all bullsh1t then I would have thought possible.
Had this been on some other posts, I would understand. What are you trying to say? No one here wants anyone to lose their job but VA is a POS airline that should never have started. What is so bad about wanting some great airlines to work for instead of allowing the 'watering down' of the whole industry ?
 

johnsonrod

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Had this been on some other posts, I would understand. What are you trying to say? No one here wants anyone to lose their job but VA is a POS airline that should never have started. What is so bad about wanting some great airlines to work for instead of allowing the 'watering down' of the whole industry ?
I have flown on VA as a passenger and it was by far the best economy seat/service I have ever experienced. Better than JB. I doubt many people on these boards ever flew on VA - they would acknowledge that it is a special product. Unfortunately, it started at the wrong time (gas crisis, world economic meltdown).
 

clickclickboom

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I have flown on VA as a passenger and it was by far the best economy seat/service I have ever experienced. Better than JB. I doubt many people on these boards ever flew on VA - they would acknowledge that it is a special product. Unfortunately, it started at the wrong time (gas crisis, world economic meltdown).

Yes and you and your family are losing about $30,000 to $100,000 per year plus lack of real retirement to subsidize those fancy seats.

Lets face it this is a POS industry.. VA as well as my airline JB are POS airlines. the others suck because of total mis management and out of control costs that are a direct result of nearly unlimited competition potential from anyone with a story and a certificate.

Do a little research regarding salaries in the USA for employees entering the workforce with 4 year degrees and you will find out what is wrong with this country.

You sepnd $150,000 on an education and cant even make $35,000 a year.. This goes well beyond aviation folks
 

Horrido

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I knew I should have gone to Med school!
 
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clickclickboom

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I knew I should have gone to Med school!

Recent ad my wife saw:

General Practiconer needed for growing family practice. 5 years experience necessary.

Signing bonus up to $150,000 depending on qualifications. relocation package and 6 months temporary housing allowance included.

Home purchase at appraisal value available in lieu of housing allowance.

$275,000 per year and 4.5% of net profit paid as bonus yearly after 2nd year.
 

skiandsurf

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--
Recent ad my wife saw:

General Practiconer needed for growing family practice. 5 years experience necessary.

Signing bonus up to $150,000 depending on qualifications. relocation package and 6 months temporary housing allowance included.

Home purchase at appraisal value available in lieu of housing allowance.

$275,000 per year and 4.5% of net profit paid as bonus yearly after 2nd year.

This sounds great. Unfortunately, ALPA negotiates starting pilot salaries of $29,000. Thanks ALPA.
 

ualdriver

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From ATW

Thursday March 12, 2009 Virgin America reported limited 2008 fourth-quarter financial figures yesterday and said it posted a $27 million operating loss, narrowed from the $59.9 million deficit in the year-ago period, its first full operating quarter. Revenue more than tripled to $109.7 million and expenses rose 42.5% to $136.7 million. Load factor soared 19.1 points to 81.2%, unit revenue was up 86.7% to 9.28 cents and operating CASM fell 12.7% to 11.57 cents. VX released limited nine-month figures last month (ATWOnline, Feb. 3). It now operates 28 A320s.


Regarding new speculation that US-based investors Cyrus Capital Partners and Black Canyon Capital have sold their stakes (ATWOnline, March 3), a VX spokesperson told ATWOnline that while it "cannot comment on private shareholder issues. . .any reports that we're in danger of not being compliant with the law are false and misleading." VX said US shareholders "remain in control" of the company, its board and more than 75% of its voting stock.
 
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