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Virgin Express Wants To Expand

The Belgian based air group wants to develop business further...

The entrepreneur Richard Branson says he wants to expand Virgin Express and does not exclude injecting fresh funds into the airline if necessary, a Belgian paper has reported.
"We will expand Virgin Express," Branson, whose Virgin empire controls 59 percent of Virgin Express, told the Belgian daily De Standaard. "We're doing fine. Virgin Express is now one of the best companies Virgin owns. I expect a lot of it," Branson said.
"Virgin Express does not need money to grow. But if it's necessary, we'll certainly look at it," he added.
The Brussels-based no-frills airline reiterated last week its forecast of a break-even operating profit for 2001 and expects to turn a profit in the second quarter of 2002 after posting an expected first-quarter seasonal loss.
The load factor, the proportion of seats sold, for February averaged 80 percent, slightly down on the overall 81.7 percent in 2001.
"The cost base is as good as that of Easyjet, like Ryanair potentially a larger competitor than the traditional national airlines," Branson said.
Virgin Express and Belgian peer SN Brussels Airlines, the company born out of the collapse of national carrier Sabena, ended two months of merger talks last week on disagreement on the financial estimations of each other and "on cultural grounds".
"Virgin Express is a profitable company, SN Brussels Airlines not yet. That means that we would lose value in a merger. We wanted to cover that risk by placing our management in the driver's seat. When that turned out to be impossible we dropped out," Branson said.