Announcing such a big loss is not a good look for any company, but Thomas Cook management will be hoping they've got all of the bad news out at once and use some breathing space to shore things up.
The bad news for Thomas Cook just keeps on coming with the embattled European tour operator announcing a huge half-year loss of $1.9 billion (£1.5 billion) and warning of more trouble ahead.
A huge goodwill write-down of $1.4 billion (£1.1 billion) relating to a 12-year-old merger makes the results look a lot worse than they actually are but the market remains “challenging” with an “uncertain consumer environment” and rising hotel and fuel costs.
“There is no doubt we are operating in a challenging environment. Against this backdrop and learning the lesson from 2018, we have taken a number of very deliberate steps to manage our operational and financial risks,” CEO Peter Fankhauser said on a media call on Thursday.
“At the same time we have a clear plan and we are on the right path to secure the future of this business.”
The good news is that Thomas Cook has secured an additional $385 million (£300 million) loan that will see it over the winter low season. The new credit facility is dependent on “progress in executing the strategic review” of its airline, which it looks almost certain to sell, having received “multiple bids” so far. Lufthansa has expressed an interest, and Virgin Atlantic is also reportedly keen on buying parts of the business.
If you strip out the impact of the goodwill write-down, the results don’t look as bad, and as analysts at Bernstein noted, it was still “better than TUI”. Underlying losses increased 16 percent to $317 million (£245 million).
After last year’s heat wave-related problems, management has cut capacity across the summer to reduce the risks. For summer 2019, tour operator bookings are down 12 percent but pricing is up 2 percent.
Despite securing the additional financing, the market remains unimpressed with the share price falling substantially following the results announcement. Those betting against the company have built up short positions totaling just over 6 percent of Thomas Cook’s stock.
“Due to challenging trading conditions in the first half of the year the company has cut full-year EBIT [earnings] guidance by 40 percent,” said Alex Brignall, travel and leisure analyst at stockbroker Redburn, said.
“Perhaps more significantly it has secured financing through next winter, giving it time to sell the airline, for which it has received multiple bids at good levels, implying a valuation of up to $1.3 billion (£1 billion), which would be a very positive outcome.”
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Photo credit: Thomas Cook's office in Palma, Majorca. The company announced a big half-year loss. Thomas Cook