Sir Richard Branson attends the Launch of Virgin America's First… (Michael Buckner/Getty…)
Virgin America Inc., the low-fare airline partly owned by U.K. billionaire Richard Branson, may seek an initial public offering of shares next year should market conditions continue to improve.
"We'll be prepared by 2013" to do an IPO, Chief Executive David Cush said in an interview.
The timing depends on the carrier's ability to generate a consistent profit and "present a compelling case for our long-term business model," and on investors' appetite for IPOs, Cush said.
"We're not tied to any date, and we've got investor patience and sufficient liquidity," Cush said.
He added that Virgin America expects to have an operating profit this year and margins that are in the "top half of the industry" in 2013.
The Burlingame, Calif.-based carrier on Friday posted a net loss of $30.8 million for the fourth quarter, wider than the $25.1 million loss a year earlier, as its jet-fuel bill surged 77% to $111 million. Revenue rose 45 percent to $276.8 million as the carrier added planes and routes.
Virgin America, which started service in August 2007, has a fleet of 51 Airbus SAS A320 jets and flies to cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and Boston.