Thomas Cook’s northern European tour operators and its regional airline are getting new owners following the announcement of a takeover by the parent company of Nordic Choice Hotels and two private equity firms.
The Ving Group, as it is known, includes country-specific tour operators Ving, Spies, Tjäreborg as well as Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia. Its management team have been looking for new financial backing ever since parent company Thomas Cook Group went into liquidation last month.
Businessman Petter Stordalen’s Strawberry Group, which owns Nordic Choice Hotels as well as other real estate and financial businesses, will take a 40 percent stake in Ving as will private equity firm Altor, while TDR Capital will have 20 percent.
The announcement gave no indication of the purchase price but the takeover involves some parts of the business entering bankruptcy before the new owners buy them back. At this stage it is unclear how much, if anything, the liquidators of the main UK-based company will get.
However, the restructure will secure about $617 million (SEK 6 billion) in liquidity and guarantees for the new group.
“The new owners’ extensive industry experience and financial strength will give us the long-term stability we need as well as completely new opportunities to develop our customer offering in the future. The deal also means that the jobs for the more than 2,300 people working within the Ving Group, including our airline, are saved,” said Ving Group CEO Magnus Wikner.
The operations of Ving (Norway and Sweden), Spies (Denmark) and Tjäreborg (Finland) will continue as normal under the new structure, although a message on the website says that bookings will be unavailable on 10/30. Eventually the new company will also look to rename its airline.
“All operations are expected to be relocated to and continue to live in the new company within the next 24 hours,” the company said.
The nature of Thomas Cook’s northern European business highlights the big differences in travel booking preferences among European countries.
In the Nordics Thomas Cook had no stores and 85 percent of its businesses was online. In the UK it had 555 stores, all of which were recently sold to Hays Travel, and in Germany it had close to 2,000 shops, although many of these were part-owned or franchises.
Earlier this month travel agency group Raiffeisen-Tours-Kooperation took full control of the Neckermann Reisen store network, acquiring the 50 percent of the group held by Thomas Cook Touristik GmbH.