Thomas Cook seeks £750m recapitalisation

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook £750m rescue plan leaves shareholders out in the cold

Thomas Cook's recapitalisation proposal may comprise a capital injection and new financing facilities, Fosun Tourism said in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Friday.

Thomas Cook is the UK's oldest tour operator having been set up in 1841 but recently has struggled to afford its high street presence.

Thomas Cook's £750 million rescue deal with Chinese group Fosun is hanging in the balance after bondholders hired heavyweight advisers to face off with the company.

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

The 178-year-old London-listed company has been battered by fading demand for its package holidays, high debt and a hot 2018 summer in Europe, which deterred bookings.

Lenders are also said to have agreed to convert a significant portion of Cook's bank and bond debt into equity.

Mr Fankhauser said the sale process for the airline business was paused while Thomas Cook focused on the refinancing.

"Thomas Cook's largest shareholder Fosun is in advanced talks with management over a deal that would effectively hand over the company to the Chinese firm".

Analysts said Thomas Cook's predicament showed how businesses needed to be careful with their balance sheets, particularly in sectors with unpredictable costs and earnings.

Other tour operators are also facing challenges and in May Anglo-German rival TUI reported deeper first-half losses due to airline overcapacity for Spain and the grounding of its Boeing 737 MAX planes.

Shares in Thomas Cook dived nearly 40 percent in early London trade Friday, having risen 20 percent earlier in the week on rumours of a Fosun bid.

It is one of China's so-called "gray rhino" companies - along with Dalian Wanda Group Co (萬達集團), HNA Group Co (海航集團) and Anbang Insurance Group Co (安邦保險集團) - that have come under growing scrutiny in the past few years from Chinese authorities wanting to crack down on debt-fueled foreign acquisitions.

Thomas Cook, worth roughly $4 billion after it debuted in June 2007, now has a market value of about $255 million and has seen its stock more than halve in value so far this year.

The British holiday company's tour business had 11 million customers in 2018 and produced £7.4 billion in revenue.

A spokesman for Fosun said: "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".

The news comes after a strategic review of Thomas Cook's airline business in February 2019.

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