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Thomas Cook shares slump 40% on rescue talks with China's Fosun

Key Points
  • The world's oldest travel company has been battered by fading demand for its package holidays, high debt and a hot 2018 summer in Europe, which deterred bookings. The company is also weighing approaches for its airline business and Nordic operations.
  • The 178-year-old London-listed company, worth roughly $4 billion after it debuted in June 2007, currently has a market value of about $255 million and has seen its stock more than halve in value so far this year.

Thomas Cook is in talks with largest shareholder Fosun Tourism and lenders for a £750 million ($940.9 million) bailout, a proposal giving the Chinese firm control of the British company's core packaged-tour business.

The proposed deal would also give Fosun Tourism a minority interest in Thomas Cook's airline business, marking one of the most significant purchases of a British company by a Chinese group in years.

The world's oldest travel company has been battered by fading demand for its package holidays, high debt and a hot 2018 summer in Europe, which deterred bookings. The company is also weighing approaches for its airline business and Nordic operations.

"After evaluating a broad range of options to reduce our debt and to put our finances onto a more sustainable footing, the board has decided to move forward with a plan to recapitalize the business," Thomas Cook Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said in a statement.

"While this is not the outcome any of us wanted for our shareholders, this proposal is a pragmatic and responsible solution."

The money would be enough for Thomas Cook to trade over the upcoming winter season and give it flexibility to invest in the business, the company said.

The 178-year-old London-listed company, worth roughly $4 billion after it debuted in June 2007, currently has a market value of about $255 million and has seen its stock more than halve in value so far this year.

It has had to issue multiple profit warnings as weak demand led to increased promotional activity and earlier discounting than usual.

Neither Thomas Cook nor Fosun Tourism said how much of the proposed funding would come from the Hong Kong-listed owner of the Club Med holiday business brand, which already owns an 18% stake in Thomas Cook.

The British holiday company's tour business had 11 million customers in 2018 and produced 7.4 billion pounds in revenue. Its higher-margin airline business - which includes German holiday carrier Condor - made 3.5 billion pounds in revenue.

The company on Friday said summer bookings in its tour operations business were down 9%, while those at its airline business are down 3%, likely leading to operating profit in the second half of the year coming in lower than the year-ago period.

Deal details

Thomas Cook's recapitalisation proposal, which may comprise a capital injection and new financing facilities, comes a month after Thomas Cook said it was in talks with Fosun following the Chinese firm's preliminary approach.

"Fosun is a shareholder in Thomas Cook, because it is a British company operating in the global travel industry, in which we have extensive experience," Fosun Tourism told Reuters in an email on Friday.

"We are committed investors, with a proven track record of turning around iconic brands including Club Med and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC."

Thomas Cook's proposal envisions that a significant amount of its external bank and bond debt will be converted into equity, and that existing Thomas Cook shareholders will have their stakes significantly diluted as a result of the recapitalisation.

The proposal is subject to due diligence and further discussion, among other things, Fosun said.