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Virgin to reposition as private equity group

After many years of shunning the public markets, the Virgin Group now plans to emulate private equity firms by floating the businesses it owns on the stock exchange.

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After many years of shunning the public markets, the Virgin Group now plans to emulate private equity firms by floating the businesses it owns on the stock exchange.

The company is already pursuing a New York listing for Virgin Mobile USA, and health club chain Virgin Active is likely to be the next to float.

“We think of our peer group as being people like Apax and Blackstone,” Virgin chief executive Stephen Murphy told The Times.

Virgin's antipathy towards the public markets dates back to 1986, when founder Richard Branson floated the group. He took the business private two years later, citing frustration with short-termist institutions.

But Branson has ceded executive control of Virgin and the company's attitude to the public markets is changing.

“Once we have built a company to a point where it has reached a level of sustainability and maturity we will seek a public exit,” Murphy said.

“We are much more comfortable with the idea now but there are no firm targets of how many businesses we want to float.”