Club Med owner may make offer for Thomas Cook unit

Thomas Cook is facing a tough operating environment in European travel, amid dwindling bookings and uncertainty over Brexit.
Thomas Cook is facing a tough operating environment in European travel, amid dwindling bookings and uncertainty over Brexit.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Fosun International's tourism unit is in talks to buy Thomas Cook Group's tour-operating business, Sky News reported.

Hong Kong-listed Fosun is already Thomas Cook's biggest shareholder and is working with JPMorgan Chase & Co on the potential offer.

However, discussions are still at an early stage and it is not yet guaranteed that a formal bid for Thomas Cook will emerge, Sky said, citing unidentified sources.

Any deal would exclude the company's airline business, which Fosun would be unable to acquire due to European Union (EU) rules.

Fosun officials could not immediately be reached for comment outside normal business hours. A Thomas Cook spokesman also declined to comment.

Last month, the world's oldest travel agency received an offer for its Scandinavian arm from private equity company Triton Partners.

Thomas Cook said it was evaluating the offer, though no decision has been made.

 AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE Billionaire Guo Guangchang heads Fosun International, Thomas Cook's biggest shareholder.
Billionaire Guo Guangchang (above) heads Fosun International, Thomas Cook's biggest shareholder.

Portuguese airline Hi Fly has also approached the business over its airline unit, as reported last week by London's The Mail on Sunday.

Thomas Cook has of late been grappling with a tough operating environment in the European travel sector, amid dwindling bookings and uncertainty over the United Kingdom's departure from the EU.

Selling at least part of its operations is crucial to the company's survival, as a new £300 million (S$521 million) loan announced last month is conditional on making progress with a disposal.

The Fosun Tourism Group unit, a division of billionaire Guo Guangchang's drugs-to-insurance conglomerate, owns the luxury resort brand Club Med. Its shares are traded in Hong Kong.

A formal bid for the Thomas Cook business could come "within weeks," according to the Sky report.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2019, with the headline 'Club Med owner may make offer for Thomas Cook unit'. Print Edition | Subscribe