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Virgin Active, the gym chain controlled by the South African investment group Brait, is offloading 16 of its UK fitness clubs to rival David Lloyd Leisure.

Virgin Active said this morning the sale was the “final significant step” in the UK to “focus its operations on metropolitan and commuter hubs in its key markets”.

Last summer, Virgin Active sold 35 of its UK gyms – more than a third of its UK portfolio – to Nuffield Health, the not-for-profit health and fitness chain, for an undisclosed sum.

At the time, the company, which is 80 per cent owned by Brait, said it would use the proceeds to invest in higher-end sites, where monthly memberships cost over £100 per month.

Virgin Active did not disclose how much it had made from the latest sale this morning, but the company said that it had spent more than £14m in the last year upgrading its 12 luxury “Collection” sites in London. The company said it would make more investments in higher-end sites this year, including a “full refurbishment” of its gym in Chelsea.

Paul Woolf, Virgin Active chief executive, said the latest sale “delivers a compelling valuation and focuses our UK estate in metropolitan and consumer hubs, in line with our operations elsewhere in the world”.

Virgin Active operates more than 240 gym locations in 10 countries. South Africa is its largest market, followed by the UK.

The company is 20 per cent owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which first set up the chain in 1999.

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