Sir Richard Branson has confirmed that his company’s cruise ship project, which is said to be worth $1.7 billion, has received funding from investors in the Gulf.
It was reported previously that the 63-year old founder of the Virgin Group was looking for investors in the region, including from the UAE, for the project.
“It is true that we are looking to set up Virgin Cruises and most of the money is now committed,” said Branson at the sidelines of an event.
“We are building two large ships quite from scratch and we feel that the Virgin brand will work well with cruises. We think we’ve got a concept that is very sexy and it is definitely something that I like to go on and something that my children like to go on.”
Branson said that the project would take a while to become operational due to the ship building process. He added that it would complement other leisure arms of the Virgin Group, which include UK-based Virgin Holiday Cruises.
The business magnate told the local daily The National earlier this month that he was in talks with some Abu Dhabi entities to fund the cruise project but did not specify any potential partners. The project will be based in Miami, according to reports.
Branson is also involved in developing a spaceport in Abu Dhabi. He has partnered with Aabar Investments, Abu Dhabi government’s investment vehicle, since 2009 when the latter obtained a stake in Virgin Galactic – the firm’s space venture.
Aabar has a 35 per cent stake in the business, valued at $300 million, it was reported.
Branson also said that he has no immediate plans to float Virgin Money, his financial services operation, which has also been funded by Abu Dhabi investors.
The British entrepreneur dismissed talks of plans to establish a base for Virgin Airlines in Dubai.
“Virgin goes where things are not being done well but I think Emirates does a good job, so it is unlikely that we will set up a big base [in Dubai],” said Branson.