Travelex Holdings has emerged as the frontrunner to buy Thomas Cook’s Indian business which was put up for sale last week.
Indian-based travel group Cox & Kings, which bought Holidaybreak in a £312 million deal last year, is also believed to be interested in Thomas Cook India – the largest foreign exchange and travel services company in the country.
Thomas Cook holds a 77% stake in the Indian business, which is listed in its home country and valued at about $190 million (£118 million). Group chief executive Sam Weihagen said the sale followed “a number of unsolicited expressions of interest”.
However, Weihagen said: “Thomas Cook India is a strong business operating in an attractive market. Both the business and the market are growing.” He said Cook would only sell its “if a compelling offer is received”.
Thomas Cook is keen to strengthen its balance sheet and has disposed of a series of assets since having to renegotiate its bank lending in November, raising about £136 million so far.
Foreign exchange specialist Travelex, based in London, bought Thomas Cook Financial Services in 2001 in a £440 million deal. The company is already present in India, having opened an Indian subsidiary in 2003.
Travelex made almost £900 million from disposals of its own last year, selling its card programme management business to Mastercard and Travelex Global Business Payments to Western Union.
Thomas Cook shares continued to trade at just over 13p a share at the end of last week, having fallen to a new low after the group went back to its banks in November, leaving the group with a market capitalisation of about £120 million.
US investment bank Goldman Sachs temporarily took a significant holding in the group last week, raising its stake from under 3% to above 4% before immediately selling. Hedge fund investor Marathon Asset Management of New York remains the largest single investor in Thomas Cook with a 6.8% stake.
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