Branson expects Virgin Money shares 'to take a pounding' if UK leaves EU
Sir Richard Branson expects Virgin Money's share price to take a "pounding" if Britain votes for Brexit, and said he was "unsure" whether the bank would be forced to cut jobs.
The billionaire founder of Virgin Group said he feared the challenger bank's share price could come under further pressure after already taking a heavy hit from the market turbulence caused by concerns that Britain may vote to leave the European Union.
He said: "In the last two months, it has seen it share price take a pounding because of the fears of Britain leaving Europe, and we haven't yet left Europe. We think that if we left Europe it would take an even greater pounding.
"That's important because you need a strong share price to keep a strong company and employ a lot of people. This company employs over 3,000 people. Whether it will cost us jobs, we are not sure, but we will obviously do everything we can to avoid it.
"But if the pound collapses and share prices collapse, it's going to have a very negative effect."
Speaking to staff at Virgin's London offices near Piccadilly, the tycoon added: "If you vote to kick the establishment in the balls you are going to end up shooting yourself in the foot."
Virgin Money, which made its stock market debut in November 2014, has seen its share price fall more than 18 % between the beginning of April and June 13.
However, heavy-weight financial stocks have recovered in recent sessions on the London market, as investors feel more confident that Britain will vote to remain in the EU. Shares in Virgin Money were up 5%.
Sir Richard said a Brexit result would also have a damaging impact upon Britain's airline industry and could cause the cost of flights to rise.
"We have fought for permission to fly anywhere within Europe, and the European Union agreed that European companies could fly anywhere within Europe. Singapore Airlines cannot fly anywhere within Europe, Emirates cannot fly anywhere within Europe.
"Easyjet do a lot of flights within Europe and they would be told they were no longer allowed to fly those flights and that will affect their business and when business is affected prices will end up going up.
"Virgin Atlantic have been talking about flying from Paris to New York and if we went out of the EU we would not be allowed to do that."
He also made an impassioned plea to young people to vote Remain and said he was concerned that the timing of the Glastonbury festival could prevent thousands of younger voters from casting their ballot.
He added: "Overwhelmingly, young people want to stay part of the European Union because sometimes they are actually more astute than their parents and their grandparents."
Sir Richard said that he had never "got involved in party politics", but he was "spending a lot of money" on advertising over the coming days to try and persuade people to vote to remain in the EU.
A pro-Europe campaign will be spearheaded by the 65-year-old in the final stretch leading up to polling day - including his warning letter, adverts and a video message.
Virgin Group currently employs some 50,000 people in the UK and has had the British entrepreneur at its helm for more than half a century.