Virgin Group will return to the mortgage market and obtain a license to operate a high street bank, the group's billionaire founder Richard Branson told the Times newspaper.

You will see us become a consumer bank within the next couple of years.

Branson's Virgin Group, which led a failed attempt to take over ailing lender Northern Rock last year, sold its mortgage finance arm, Virgin One, to RBS in 2003.

Branson, of the government's business advisers, said he was urging Prime Minister Gordon Brown to make the liquidity crisis a top priority.

The prime minister realizes that the most dangerous thing is the liquidity issue, Branson told the newspaper. We cannot allow perfectly decent companies go to the wall just because they cannot get liquidity.

Branson was giving the interview while flying round the world last week to promote the launch of his newest airline, V Australia.

(Reporting by Christina Fincher; Editing by Lincoln Feast)