Thomas Cook to likely sell brands, as CEO to unveil new strategy this week
Luxury travel agent Elegant Resorts and long-haul specialist Gold Medal are among the brands that could be put up for sale by Thomas Cook as the new chief executive, Harriet Green, unveils her revival strategy this week, according to analysts.
Ms Green will unveil her long-awaited strategy for the world’s oldest travel company at a capital markets day on Wednesday.
Online sales will play a major part in the overhaul and the group has created a digital advisory board, involving independent experts, to help it close the gap on rivals that have been quicker to invest in the internet. The former CEO of electronics group, Premier Farnell, will also give more detail on how she expects to restore profit margins.
Ms Green, who was appointed in July to revamp the struggling tour operator, has already outlined £160m of cost savings since her arrival, which will be delivered through initiatives such as merging its UK, German and Belgian airline businesses.
But some analysts believe further significant costs can still be stripped out of the company, which fell to a £485m loss last year but has since reported more positive signs of a pick-up in trading.
Analysts at Morgan Stanley believe the £160m already identified by Ms Green and new finance director, Michael Healy, are merely a “staging post” before a larger figure is revealed this week.
The 172-year-old holiday operator is also still pushing through £140m of cost-cutting in its UK business, announced by the group’s previous management in 2011 when Thomas Cook was forced to seek an emergency loan from lenders.
The group last week announced 2,500 job losses in the UK – one in six of its staff in Britain – as it seeks to restore its flagship business to health. Retail jobs will account for 1,600 of the redundancies as Thomas Cook plans to close a further 195 high street travel agencies.
The remainder will be administrative and management roles. The tour operator has insisted it is reviewing “every part of its business” and Ms Green is not expected to unveil a shopping list of potential disposals on Wednesday.
However, Gold Medal, Neilson and Elegant Resorts have all been identified by analysts as potential disposal targets further down the line.
Thomas Cook last week confirmed it would retain its troubled French business, which made a £21m loss in 2012, but analysts have also questioned its continued presence in other markets such as Canada and Russia.
Under the terms of a £1.4bn refinancing agreed with lenders earlier this year, Thomas Cook had been due to undergo a “cash sweep” this month, whereby any excess cash on the balance sheet above £250m would be used to reduce debt.
But Nick Batram, analyst at Peel Hunt, said banks are unlikely to put any “undue pressure” on Thomas Cook at this early stage in its turnaround.
Shares in Thomas Cook closed down 6.75 on Friday at 75.75p, valuing the company at £685.18m.