Travel trade leaders hailed Thomas Cook’s proposed takeover by Chinese group Fosun as “good for the industry”.
Thomas Cook confirmed at the end of last week that it is in talks on a deal with its creditor banks and Fosun Tourism Group.
Fosun, which already owns 18% of Thomas Cook having bought an initial stake in 2015, will take a controlling share in the group’s tour operator and retail business, and a minority stake in its airline. Thomas Cook will retain a majority holding in its carriers and minority stake in the tour operator, but be taken over by its creditor banks and bondholders.
Thomas Cook wrote to trade partners this week to reassure them about the deal, which needs to complete by September.
Podcast: What next for Thomas Cook?
Julia Lo Bue-Said, Advantage Travel Partnership chief executive, said: “I’m pleased. Thomas Cook is a key partner and key industry player. It’s good for the industry and consumers.”
Der Touristik UK chief executive Derek Jones agreed: “This is good for the industry and for staff. Anything that takes the speculation away is good.”
Richard Dixon, co-founder of Holidaysplease, said: “Thomas Cook adds value to our industry and is a reassuring presence.”
A former senior Thomas Cook executive said: “It’s the best possible outcome and the most likely to preserve jobs. Shareholders are angry, but it keeps Thomas Cook going. It’s a neat solution.”
Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “This is not the outcome we wanted. [But] this is a pragmatic solution that provides the means to secure the business for our customers, suppliers and employees.”
He insisted customers “can book without worries”, saying: “We have enough resources to operate.”
Fosun noted its ambition “to grow Thomas Cook China into a major brand in the China travel market”.
China marketing expert Cathy Chon, head of Finn Partners Hong Kong, said Fosun would want to preserve Thomas Cook’s brand: “When a Chinese group buys a western company, they want to retain its cachet. They also tend to be discreet.”
However, Chon added: “There is some awareness of Thomas Cook in China, but awareness is limited when you have an English brand name.”
A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “Having Fosun as anchor investor gives a lot of confidence.”
The TSSA trade union, which represents Thomas Cook shop staff, sought an urgent meeting with the group this week to seek assurances on jobs.
But the Thomas Cook spokesman insisted: “Retail will remain firmly part of the tour operator. This [deal] is not good for shareholders, [but] for all other parties, it means continuation of the business.”
More: Chinese group would retain Thomas Cook name [June 19]
Comment: What now for Thomas Cook? [July 5]
Comment: Can Thomas Cook survive? [May 19]