British billionaire Richard Branson is eyeing a stake in Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia's new long-haul airline, the Star Malaysian daily reported.
The unlisted carrier, Fly Asian Express, will sell a 20% stake to Branson's Virgin Group, the newspaper said citing sources familiar with the deal.
Dow Jones Newswires also reported that the deal could be signed as early as next month
and could cost Branson US$6.9 million.
Branson reportedly wants to team up with AirAsia's owner and tycoon, Tony Fernandes, to operate services from Malaysia to China, Europe and Australia when flights commence in September this year.
The newspaper quoted Fernandes admitting that he had been in talks with Branson. "I won't hide the fact that we're talking, we're always exchanging ideas, but it is not settled."