Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow) has been put up for sale by majority shareholder, Virgin Group, as talks with the UK Government over a GBP500 million pound (USD618.6 million) bailout continue. The carrier, which is split 51/49 between Virgin and Delta Air Lines (DL, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson), has until the end of May to secure fresh investment and avert a collapse.

Sources familiar with developments told The Telegraph newspaper that Houlihan Lokey, a US-based investment bank and financial services specialist, has been appointed to assist in the process where an initial list of "about" 50 investors has now been whittled down to a handful including Centerbridge Partners, Cerberus Capital Management, Lansdowne Partners, Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek, and Northill Capital.

“Discussions with a number of stakeholders continue and are constructive, meanwhile the airline remains in a stable position,” a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman told the paper.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian has already ruled the US carrier out given it already holds the maximum shareholding allowed to non-EU/UK carriers - 49% - and also has its own COVID-19 problems to deal with.

Virgin Group's Australian franchised carrier - Virgin Australia Holdings - entered into administration last week amid funding problems of its own. Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Group, has pledged Necker Island, his residence in the British Virgin Islands, as a security for commercial loans and not as collateral on loans from the UK taxpayer.