Virgin Mobile: Where will Branson spend his €178m?

Having succeeded in snatching a profit of €178 million from the sale of Virgin Mobile USA to Sprint Nextel, speculation has arisen as to where high-profile billionaire Sir Richard Branson might look to invest the earnings.

Branson could have made considerably more if he had sold when Virgin Mobile USA was floated two years ago, but industry watchers nonetheless are expecting the current proceeds to be invested in other mobile ventures, particularly in France, India and the Middle East.

As the French government prepares to open the auction for the country's fourth 3G license, Virgin Mobile France and Numericable, which is owned by private equity firms Carlyle Group and Cinven as well as investment vehicle Altice, are said to be studying a possible joint bid.

According to insiders, the two firms could form a core holding company open to French and foreign partners that would then adopt an aggressive wholesale strategy targeting MVNOs.

Virgin Mobile has also stated it wants to increase its operations in India and was considering launching a Middle East mobile service.