Financial restructuring

Turkish tourism entrepreneur buys up Thomas Cook stake

Anex Tour is a major tourism player in Turkey and Russia and has tour operators in other European countries.
Klaus Hildebrandt
Anex Tour is a major tourism player in Turkey and Russia and has tour operators in other European countries.

Neset Kockar, founder and head of Turkey’s Anex Tourism Group, has acquired a 6.7% stake in Thomas Cook as Europe’s second-largest tourism group heads for a break-up into separate tour operator and airline companies.

Thomas Cook announced yesterday in regulatory filings that Kockar had built up the stake in several stages. He apparently took advantage of the fall in the company’s share price over the last fortnight following the recent announcement about the planned financial restructuring.

The Turkish entrepreneur, born in 1973, is founder and chairman of the Antalya-based Anex Tourism Group. This company owns tour operators in Russia, Eastern Europe and Germany, the leisure airline Azur Air, and incoming agencies and hotels in Turkey. Kockar has also invested in the Turkish energy sector.

The main shareholders in heavily indebted Thomas Cook are China’s Fosun (20%) and diverse institutional investors such as banks and funds.

Under the financial rescue plan announced two weeks ago, the loss-making group would be split up into two separate companies by the end of September and would get £750 million to cover winter 2019/20 trading and to finance forthcoming investments.

Fosun would take a majority stake in the future tour operating company, with its large-scale businesses in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia and other European markets. This would give the Club Med owner new growth opportunities both in China and in Europe.

The group’s airlines, including Condor, would be taken over by EU-based institutional investors, thus protecting their air traffic rights. The financial investors would swap debts of £1.6 billion for equity stakes while Fosun would gain a minority stake in the airlines.

This financing plan means that the planned sale of the group airline business has been stopped. There were also several approaches for the tour operating business over the last few months.

Commenting on the recapitalisation plan, CEO Peter Fankhauser said: “While this is not the outcome any of us wanted for our shareholders, this proposal is a pragmatic and responsible solution which provides the means to secure the future of the Thomas Cook business for our customers, our suppliers and our employees.”