China’s Fosun in advanced talks to invest $940m in Thomas Cook

FILE PHOTO: The Thomas Cook logo is seen in this illustration photo January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

China’s Fosun Tourism Group is in advanced talks with Thomas Cook Group Plc and its lenders regarding a combined 750 million pound ($940 million) fund-raising by the world’s oldest travel company.

The proposed deal would give Fosun Tourism control of the British firm’s core packaged-tour business and minority interest in its airline business, marking one of the most significant purchases of a British company by a Chinese group in years.

Fosun did not say how much of the money it would inject and how much would come from lenders.

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. 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 recapitalise 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.”

Thomas Cook, 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.

The tour business of Thomas Cook had 11 million customers in 2018 and produced 7.4 billion pounds in revenue, while its higher-margin airline business – which includes German holiday carrier Condor – made 3.5 billion pounds in revenue.

Hong Kong-listed Fosun Tourism, owner of the Club Med holiday business brand, is already Thomas Cook’s biggest shareholder with an 18 percent stake.

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.

The news comes a month after Thomas Cook said it was in talks with Fosun, after the Chinese firm made a 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.