Richard Branson is planning a fourth attempt at circumnavigating the globe in a hot air balloon.

Branson, the tycoon whose Virgin company name is on everything from record stores to an airline, is hoping to take off in the Virgin Global Challenger before the end of the year, spokeswoman Jackie McQuillan said in London.His rival Steve Fossett's latest attempt ended in 30,000-foot plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

Previous attempts by Branson were hampered by bad weather. The only time he managed to take off - in January 1997 - his balloon crash-landed in the Algerian desert.