Cook boss insists ‘the numbers work’ in Co-op merger

Thomas Cook boss Manny Fontenla-Novoa has rejected criticism of the company’s proposed retail merger with The Co-operative Travel and Midlands Co-operative.

Speaking at the Institute of Travel and Tourism conference in Venice, Fontenla-Novoa said: “The reasons for the merger are pretty compelling. It makes even more sense now.”

The Competition Commission is considering whether to green-light a deal, announced last October, that will give Thomas Cook control of more than 1,200 UK shops – half as many more as rival Tui Travel.

Former Tui Travel mainstream managing director Dermot Blastland suggested last week there was no sense to the merger.

But Fontenla-Novoa said: “We looked at the numbers and they work for us. High street distribution is still very important, especially for early sales where we make our highest margin.

“The two companies fit very well. We believe in the Co-operative Travel brand, its management and people.”

The Competition Commission is due to make a ruling by August. But Fontenla-Novoa said: “We expect a decision by the end of this month or early July. We expect approval. What we don’t know are the possible remedies.”

The Commission may require the group to divest properties as a condition of allowing the deal to go ahead.

It is understood Fontenla-Novoa has been frustrated by the delay as regulatory approval has passed from the European Commission to the Office of Fair Trading and then the Competition Commission.

However, he said: “It has taken so long – we could have withdrawn at any time. But it makes more sense now.”

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