Richard Branson, the hot-air-ballooning British magnate who extended his Virgin brand from entertainment to transportation, has set his sights on financial services-and maybe even on U.S. opportunities in that market.

Mr. Branson-who made his entrepreneurial mark through Virgin Records, Virgin Megastores, and Virgin Atlantic Airlines-is using Virgin Direct Ltd. as his financial services vehicle. He is chairman of that unit, set up in March 1995 as a fifty-fifty partnership with Australian Mutual Provident Society.

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