Fosun ‘backs Thomas Cook strategy’

The union which represents Thomas Cook shop staff sought assurances on jobs after Cook confirmed this week it is in talks with Chinese group Fosun on a potential takeover.

Fosun emerged as the most likely saviour of Thomas Cook’s holiday business as the group considers separate offers for its airlines. The Chinese conglomerate already owns resort group Club Med, which it bought in 2015, and operates a joint venture with Thomas Cook in China.

Thomas Cook confirmed on Monday that “it is in discussions with Fosun International following receipt of a preliminary approach”. The group noted: “There can be no certainty this will result in a formal offer. However, the board will consider any potential offer alongside the other strategic options it has.”

The news triggered fresh concerns about Cook’s retail estate, with a senior industry figure suggesting: “I’m not sure Fosun will want 550-plus Thomas Cook UK agencies.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes demanded “details on Fosun’s intentions” saying: “These are worrying times for our members.”

Only 10 days earlier, the union “welcomed a commitment from Thomas Cook that they have no plans to leave our high streets” following a meeting with the group.

Cortes subsequently announced he was “encouraged” after “several discussions” with the company.

A source close to Thomas Cook noted: “It should not be worrying if Fosun comes in and injects some capital into the business. Fosun is well-known to Cook. It has been buying shares. It has backed the management and backed the strategy.”

Fosun bought a 5% stake in Thomas Cook four years ago and built it to 18.6% through the early part of this year. The two groups launched a joint venture in China in 2016 which has expanded through digital distribution deals with Chinese retailer Ali Baba and social media giant WeChat to handle 160,000 customers last year and expects double that number this year.

Thomas Cook has received bids for its airlines in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia, including from Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic, as well as an offer for its Scandinavian business from private equity firm Triton, and the TSSA fears the company will be broken up. However, a TSSA spokesman told Travel Weekly: “If someone comes in to buy the business to make it work without cutting jobs or any loss on the high street that would be no bad thing.”

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