Thomas Cook has reported a 50% rise in operating profits to £366 million and an overall margin on sales of 4.2% for the 12 months to the end of September.


The strong results led Europe’s second-biggest travel group to defy the economic gloom and forecast a further growth in margin in the current financial year and annual profits of £480 million in 2009-10.


Thomas Cook chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa described the profit margin as “industry leading”. He said: “We have over-delivered against our cost-reduction targets and successfully navigated through a period of unprecedented oil-price volatility.”


The group reported revenue of £8.8 billion for the 12 months was up 11.8% on the previous period – although the comparison is complicated by the merger of Thomas Cook and MyTravel that established the group last year, meaning figures have been adjusted.


Fontenla-Novoa reported savings from the merger would total £215 million by 2010, a substantial increase on the previous estimate of £155 million.


The UK provided £143.4 million of group profits, 95% up on a year ago, despite a 1% fall in revenue to almost £3.1 billion. Just over two-thirds of Thomas Cook sales in the UK were through its own outlets and more than 26% online – a proportion the group said has now reached 27%.


Fontenla-Novoa said the the company’s focus on medium-haul destinations such as Turkey and Egypt “has proved helpful at a time when sterling’s decline against the euro has augmented demand for destinations outside the Euro-zone”.