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SN-Virgin deal close

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Express and SN Airholding II which controls SN Brussels Airlines are close to a common ownership deal for the two carriers.

The deal has already been approved by the board of SN Airholding which has instructed its president to “positively finalise negotiations.”

The board of Virgin Express Holdings plc, which owns the Brussels-based low cost carrier, is expected to announce it approval of the deal today.

The two carriers signed a Letter of Intent in March 2004 to put themselves under common ownership. The agreement hammered out between them will put Virgin Express in the ownership of SN Airholding II and give Virgin Express Holdings a 29.9% stake in that company.

Sir Richard's investment company Virgin Sky Investments previously had an 89% stake in Virgin Express holdings.

The new deal will leave SN Airholding II with 100% of Virgin Express and nearly 92% of SN Brussels which is the airline born out of the collapse of Sabena in 2001.

A spokesman for SN Brussels said Virgin Express and SN Brussels would keep their own brands and continue to operate respectively as a low cost carrier and a full service airline.

* Sir Richard who has clearly had a busy week, also announced earlier this week that his Virgin Group would announce a deal next Tuesday (September 28th) to set up a joint airline venture in Nigeria.

The new airline will be called Virgin Nigeria Airlines in which Sir Richard's company will have a 49% with the rest owned by institutional investors in Nigeria. That country's own national carrier, Nigeria Airways was liquidated in 2003.