Thomas Cook still on acquisition trail despite downturn

Thomas Cook is to continue on the acquisition trail despite the current downturn but has refuted rumours it hoped to buy upmarket specialist Kuoni.

Former Kuoni UK managing director Sue Biggs, now managing director of Thomas Cook’s scheduled businesses, said the rumours of an acquisition of Kuoni were completely untrue.

“I would not have spent 12 months on gardening leave to come back to do a deal [with Kuoni]. There is nothing on the cards,” she said.

She added that the company was in the market to buy smaller specialist businesses based on scheduled flying.

“We are looking for businesses that have the potential to be well-run. There are lots out there where the owners are worried about the current climate and we would be interested in talking to them,” she said. “If anything, the acquisition side of things accelerates during slower trading times. Now is a good time to talk to people.”

Further consolidation was likely in the short-term, she said. “I think there will be consolidation but I don’t think that brings potentially negative connotations.”

Gone are the days when the major travel companies snap up smaller specialists only to absorb them into the business and destroy their identity and their management teams, she added.

More news from the ABTA Travel Convention 2008.

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