German travel agents have been praised for continuing to book Thomas Cook holidays amid the group’s ongoing restructuring negotiations.
Negotiations over the recapitalisation of Europe's second-largest tourism group have entered a decisive phase after delays in sealing agreements with creditors. The group is seeking a £900 million rescue deal that would lead to it splitting into separate tour operator and airline businesses.
But Stefanie Berk, the group’s head of Central and Eastern Europe, stressed at this week's fvw Kongress in Cologne that the delay is no reason for concern. "It is a highly-complex deal, and delays are unavoidable," she emphasised. "We still expect the agreement to be sealed as announced and would still be within our time-plan."
Berk, replacing CEO Peter Fankhauser who had to withdraw from the event due to ongoing negotiations, took the opportunity to thank the German travel industry, and travel agents in particular, for their support for the company. "We are extremely thankful for this," she declared.
The Thomas Cook manager emphasised that the planned recapitalisation would be a "real turning-point". The group would be debt-free, have additional financial reserves and, in Chinese group Fosun, a reliable shareholder that was interested in a growth strategy. Fosun and Cook have already agreed to cooperate for the expansion of several hotel brands in China, she pointed out.
Explaining the restructuring plan to German travel industry managers, Berk said the separation into a tour operator business and an airline business would not change much. "We will then become sister companies," she said. In Germany, about one third of Thomas Cook customers fly on Condor to their destination while Cook is the airline's largest single client.
Under the recapitalisation plan, Fosun (the group's largest current shareholder with an 18% stake) will contribute £450 million of new money to the group and acquire at least 75% of the Group Tour Operator (subject to the receipt of anti-trust approvals) and 25% of the Group Airline. In parallel, Thomas Cook's core lending banks and noteholders plan to provide £450 million of funding and will convert their existing debt of £1.6 billion into approximately 75% of the Group Airline and up to 25% of the Group Tour Operator.