Move fuels speculation about UK sell-off

Virgin has sold its 11 music stores in the US, fuelling speculation that its UK arm Virgin Megastores could be put up for sale.

The US Virgin chain was sold to property developer Related Companies for an undisclosed sum, leaving Virgin’s 65-store UK chain as the last to be wholly owned by the group. Virgin Entertainment Asia, the holding company for the UK stores, made a£126 million loss in the 12 months to March last year, in a troubled entertainment market. In the UK, music retailers Fopp and Music Zone have already buckled this year.

Separately, Sir Richard Branson is understood to be considering a float of his businesses. He reportedly wants to operate the group like a private equity firm, with plans to sell off his businesses on the stock exchange. However, Virgin would retain a stake in the companies, including directors on the board, to protect the brand. The group is already understood to be looking at a New York listing for Virgin Mobile USA.