After being turned down flatly by the UK government, Sir Richard Branson was in a race against time to secure new investment for his troubled airline, Virgin Atlantic.
It appears he has beaten the clock and pulled off another coup, as Virgin Atlantic has finalized a rescue deal worth £1.2 billion (US$1.51 billion) that should protect thousands of jobs, BBC reported.
Branson’s Virgin Group will inject £200 million, with additional funds provided by investors and creditors.
Virgin Atlantic is cutting 3,500 staff, but the airline said the remaining 6,500 jobs should be secure, BBC reported.
The deal includes funding from US hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management, and the postponement of about £450 million in payments to creditors. Virgin Group owns 51% of the airline, with the rest held by US carrier Delta Air Lines.
Virgin Atlantic said the refinancing covered the next five years and paved the way for it to rebuild its balance sheet and return to profitability in 2022, BBC reported.
“We have taken painful measures, but we have accomplished what many thought impossible,” said chief executive Shai Weiss. “The last six months have been the toughest we have faced in our 36-year history.”
As with other airlines, the Covid-19 outbreak plunged Virgin Atlantic into a crisis as air travel dried up. Virgin grounded most of its fleet for months, but is due to resume some services next week, BBC reported.
The company had initially hoped the government would step in with up to £500 million in bailout loans, but ministers made it clear taxpayers’ money could only be considered once all other options had been exhausted.
Sir Richard even offered to mortgage his Caribbean holiday island, Necker, in return for new investment, although this was no longer necessary, BBC reported.
Virgin Group raised money for the investment from the sale of some shares in the Virgin Galactic space tourism company.
The investment plan still needs formal approval from Virgin Atlantic’s creditors under a court-sanctioned process, BBC reported.
In other airline news, Australian carrier Qantas has canceled all international flights until March of 2021, a hiatus of more than seven months — the longest time period any carrier has announced an interruption of flights, according to The Daily Mail.
Even flights to nearby New Zealand are now unavailable until September 1. Previously, there had been discussion that the two countries could create their own bubble where travelers could go back and forth.
Qantas had originally canceled international flights through October.
A Qantas spokesman told The Daily Mail Australia “all international and sale flights have been removed from the website” until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.