Turkish Airlines (TK, Istanbul New) is interested in acquiring the 19.8% stake in Virgin Australia (VA, Brisbane Int'l) currently held by HNA Group, sources familiar with the developments told Bloomberg. The Turkish carrier itself has clarified to Bloomberg that the report "does not reflect the truth" and that it would "share our objectives of developing our business partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region with our shareholders."

The debt-laden Chinese conglomerate has been exploring the sale of its stake in Virgin Australia since 2018. Turkish Airlines is reportedly not the only interested party. Singapore Airlines (SQ, Singapore Changi) and Chinese industrial holding Nanshan Capital, which each own a 20% stake, were also exploring the possibility of increasing their shareholdings in Virgin Australia.

Turkish Airlines has so far not been investing in airlines outside of Turkey. The carrier fully owns low-cost carrier division AnadoluJet (TK, Ankara Esenboga) and business charter specialist Turkish Airlines General Aviation (TRK, Istanbul Atatürk). It also is a 50% partner in SunExpress (XQ, Antalya), a joint venture with Lufthansa (LH, Frankfurt Int'l).

The largest shareholder in Virgin Australia is EAG Investment Holding Company, an investment vehicle for Etihad Airways (EY, Abu Dhabi Int'l). The holding owns a 20.9% stake in the Australian carrier. Richard Branson's Virgin Group controls a 10.4% stake, leaving less than 9% of shares freely traded on the Australian Stock Exchange.