British tycoon Richard Branson has confirmed that the UK-based Virgin Group has entered into negotiations with a selection of Russian mobile operators over a possible mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal, Reuters reports. Speaking on the sidelines of an innovation conference in Moscow, Branson said that Virgin could invest up to USD1 billion in Russia-focused businesses if its dual plans for an MVNO and a Virgin Atlantic London-Moscow flight slot come to fruition. The tycoon said: ‘We use their networks, and they use our brand. It has worked really well in other countries and we think it will work well in Russia’.
However, Branson’s over-arching plans have experienced a degree of turbulence already. Branson’s Virgin Atlantic brand, which is 51% owned by the Virgin Group and 49% owned by Singapore Airlines, was refused the twice-daily London-Moscow slots by the Civil Aviation Authority last month, losing out to budget airline easyJet. ‘I’m hoping that Virgin Atlantic will get up and fly here next year, but we are waiting for feedback’, Branson said, noting that he has had positive discussions with officials and expects to ‘know where we stand by the end of the year’.