Thomas Cook Sticks to Outlook as Loss Narrows

Thomas Cook, Europe's second-largest travel company, said it remains confident of meeting expectations for the current year as it reported a 15 percent narrowing in its first-half loss on Tuesday.

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The group, created last year from the tie-up of German retailer Arcandor's travel unit and Britain's MyTravel, said the group pro-forma operating loss for the six months to April 30 was 177.5 million pounds ($348.9 million).

Thomas Cook, which has over 3,000 retail outlets, including more than 1,000 in the UK, said trading for summer 2008 remains strong in all its major markets.

Chief Executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa said the group is continuing to target 480 million pounds ($943.4 million) operating profit in 2009/10.

The company also said Ludger Heuberg is to step down as chief financial officer for family reasons, with Juergen Bueser replacing him from July 1.

Bueser is a member of the group management board and has held the position of chief financial officer of Thomas Cook UK & Ireland since 2005.

Group fuel requirements for the rest of the year have been hedged to 100 percent for crude and 93 percent for jet fuel.

Foreign currency requirements for the remainder of the year are hedged to 100 percent.

For 2008/9, Thomas Cook said fuel and foreign currency requirements have been hedged in line with policy.

Crude has been hedged to 89 percent, with the dollar hedged to 75 percent and the Euro to 67 percent.

The group is paying an interim dividend of 3.25 pence per share.