Lufthansa has officially bid for Thomas Cook Group’s German airline Condor with the option of taking over all of the struggling British tourism group’s airlines.
The confirmation by CEO Carsten Spohr at the company’s annual general meeting on Tuesday follows reports that Thomas Cook had set a deadline of yesterday for offers and after weeks of speculation that Lufthansa would make a move for its former subsidiary.
"We have made a non-binding offer for Condor, with the option of extending it to all Thomas Cook airlines," Spohr said. However, he admitted it was unlikely that a single buyer would be permitted to buy all of the tourism group’s airlines due to anti-trust regulations.
Thomas Cook Group put its airlines, comprising Condor, Thomas Cook Airlines UK, the Scandinavian business and the small Spanish operation, up for sale in February in an effort to raise cash to cut debts and invest in its hotels business. The company, which releases half-year figures on May 16, recently set a deadline of May 7 for offers.
Thomas Cook Group Airlines has annual turnover of about £3.5 billion, flying more than 19 million passengers to 120 destinations worldwide, and will operate a fleet of 105 planes this summer. Condor is the largest airline with 58 planes (including 17 long-haul jets) while Thomas Cook Airlines UK operates 35 planes.
According to experts, Lufthansa, which already owned Condor until 2009, could combine the German leisure airline with its budget subsidiary Eurowings to create a leisure travel-focused business with a wide range of European city and beach destinations and long-haul tourist routes.
Condor’s strong position at its home base of Frankfurt, its long-haul flights from Munich and overall route network from seven German airports make it an attractive takeover target. The airline returned to profit last year following a cost reduction programme.
Meanwhile, analysts are speculating that a sale of the airlines, which need to be under EU and UK ownership respectively to retain traffic rights, could pave the way for Chinese group Fosun, which already owns an 18% stake in Thomas Cook Group, to make a takeover offer for the listed British tourism group.