Thomas Cook on Monday confirmed being in talks with majority shareholder Fosun over a possible bid for its tour operating arm.
If the proposal by the Chinese company, which owns Club Med, is successful it could trigger the break-up of the Thomas Cook business.
In a statement to the London stock exchange this morning, the company said: “Thomas Cook Group notes media reports regarding a potential offer for its tour operator business from Fosun International Limited, the group’s largest shareholder.
“Thomas Cook confirms that it is in discussions with Fosun following receipt of a preliminary approach.
“There can be no certainty that this approach will result in a formal offer.
“However, the board will consider any potential offer alongside the other strategic options that it has, with the aim of maximising value for all its stakeholders.
“The company will make a further announcement as appropriate.”
Thomas Cook’s tour operation reported revenues of almost £7.4 billion with underlying earnings of £161 million in 2018.
Sky News reported over the weekend that sources close to the “secret talks” surrounding the deal said discussions were at an early stage.
It said that Fosun is working with JP Morgan on the offer, which will not include a bid for Thomas Cook Airlines, put up for sale separately in February.
The reported bid is the latest development surrounding the future of Thomas Cook since it reported half year losses of almost £1.5 billion last month before its share price dropped to below 12p.
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Fosun, which first took a stake in Cook in 2015, raised its stake to 18% in April.
There has also been a separate approach for Thomas Cook’s Nordic business from Triton Partners, which Cook confirmed on May 24.
The group’s Nordic operation comprises a tour operation and airline in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, trades under the brands Ving, Tjareborg and Spies, and employ around 20% of Thomas Cook’s 21,000-strong workforce.
Portugal’s largest private airline, Hi Fly, has reportedly made a non-binding offer for Thomas Cook Airlines.
After Sky’s report of the Fosun bid, travel and transport union TSSA said it would seek an urgent meeting and reassurances on jobs.
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “These are very worrying times for our members at Thomas Cook. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with Thomas Cook to clarify if there is any truth to the latest speculation.”
“Thomas Cook has been an integral part of the British high street for decades,” he said. “We have been clear with our members that we will fight tooth and nail for their jobs.”
Cook had previously told the union it was absolutely committed to retaining a presence on the high street, although separate reports said sources were planning a radical overhaul to the business to make it an “online holiday marketplace”.
In March, Cook announced 21 shop closures and chief executive Peter Fankhauser said Cook’s retail network – currently 560 shops – would be reviewed “constantly”.