Obasanjo and Branson Launch Virgin Nigeria

28th Sep 2004

The Nigerian Government and Virgin Atlantic Airways today signed an agreement to establish a new airline for Nigeria, to be called Virgin Nigeria.  The new airline will be incorporated in Nigeria and majority-owned by Nigerian investors.  The new airline will receive specialist expertise and services from Virgin Atlantic, the renowned international airline owned by Sir Richard Branson and Singapore Airlines. Virgin Atlantic’s support will enable the airline to be launched quickly, early next year and to the best international standards.  Virgin Nigeria will soon start recruiting in Nigeria and we welcome applications from anyone. Within just a few years Virgin Nigeria expects to be directly employing several thousand people in Nigeria and creating a further 20,000 new jobs indirectly via its suppliers, partners and activities at Lagos airport. 

Virgin Nigeria will start operations once all necessary approvals and authorisations have been obtained with seats expected to go on sale early in the New Year and the first flights commencing a few weeks later.  The airline will have its home base at Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos and will be opening routes as quickly as possible to many destinations. These will include domestic routes such as Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt; regional routes such as Abidjan, Accra and Dakar, and international destinations such as the Middle East, the USA and Europe. 

Virgin Nigeria will be owned 51% by Nigerian institutional investors, via a private placement process to be completed before launch.  The balance will be held by Virgin Atlantic Limited. Total investment is expected to be around US$ 50 million, of which Virgin Atlantic will be providing its 49% share, likely to be around $24.5 million.  After the airline has successfully developed a track record, share ownership will be widened to all Nigerian investors via an Initial Public Offering on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

The new airline will operate separately to the existing Virgin Atlantic services between Nigeria and the UK, which will continue normally.  Virgin Atlantic currently operates from London to Lagos and Port Harcourt, with around 300 people in Nigeria supporting its business.

Speaking today at the formal announcement in Abuja with President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Isa Yuguda, Sir Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, said:


“As we approach the celebrations of Nigeria’s 44th Independence Day I’m delighted to be here in Abuja with President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the Honourable Minister of Aviation, Isa Yuguda, to announce the launch of a new airline for Nigerians.  Nigeria is taking yet another bold step forward, and all of us at Virgin are honoured and excited to be
selected by the Nigerian government to play a role in creating a new, 21st century airline for Nigeria’s 133 million people.  We aim to create the best airline, not just in Nigeria, but in the world, based in Africa.

“Virgin Nigeria will be a new airline for Nigeria in many ways. Offering choice and value to its customers - with domestic, regional and international services, providing world class safety and service.  Virgin Nigeria will be a desired employer for people across the country, creating thousands of new jobs.  It will operate to the highest standards of private sector corporate governance and practices and will become a source of pride for the nation.

“Passengers on Virgin Nigeria will enjoy the value and service that 85 million global airline travellers on Virgin airlines have grown to love.  We are now moving rapidly to secure the necessary approvals and permits and we look forward to publishing in the next few weeks further details of routes, prices and other important information for customers.

“Virgin’s successful relationship with Nigeria is already over three years old, and through Virgin Nigeria we are now making a further investment of tens of millions of dollars into the country. I am proud to be associated with the Nigerian nation, and I look forward to deepening our relationship over the coming years.”

Virgin Nigeria aims to launch services between Lagos and Abuja.  Other announcements will be made in the coming weeks on key aspects of the airline for customers, including route network, ticket prices, aircraft, and service details.  Please monitor our website for further details: www.virginnigeria.com


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