Scottish Daily Mail

Chinese firm takes Thomas Cook stake

- By Rupert Steiner

THOMAS Cook is the latest British firm in the sights of a Chinese investor.

Shares in the holiday giant rose nearly 25pc after Fosun, which also recently took over Club Med, splashed out almost £100m taking a 5pc stake in the world’s oldest travel firm.

Fosun, a steel, property and investment conglomera­te, i s chaired by entreprene­ur Guo Guangchang ( pictured), the selfstyled Warren Buffet of the east.

It plans to double its stake to 10pc but says it is not interested in a full bid for the Uk travel business, that recently parted company with colourful chief executive Harriet Green.

In a joint press conference the two firms said the partnershi­p was about collaborat­ing over their travel and leisure businesses as well as i ncreasing Thomas Cook’s presence in the Chinese market. The investment was seen as a welcome boost for t he hol i day firm which almost collapsed a few years ago in the face of f i erce competitio­n from t he budget airlines.

The partnershi­p with Fosun is not the f i rm’s f i rst collaborat­ion. Back in 2011 it agreed an

ill- fated merger with the Coop to produce the Uk’s largest High Street travel agent at a time when rivals were shutting stores as more customers made their purchases online.

Chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa was ditched and Green was drafted in to turn the business around.

She reorganise­d divisions and, in a volte face, closed High Street stores.

Peter Fankhauser, who replaced Green as chief executive, said this latest tie-up should not be compared with the last one.

Fankhauser said: ‘This is helping us to accelerate growth and is in no way comparable to the previous transactio­n.’

The two companies will also create a hotel partnershi­p, with the Chinese group buying hotel properties from independen­t owners and Thomas Cook managing them.

Mark Irvine-Fortescue, an analyst at Jefferies, said both f i rms would work together to promote Club Med: ‘Thomas Cook and Club Med are already longstandi­ng partners and Thomas Cook is the largest third-party distributo­r of Club Med’s product in France.’

Fosun agreed to invest £ 9 1 . 8 m, snapping up 73,135,777 shares in a private placement boosting Thomas Cook by 29.6p to 150.2p.

It said it also ‘intends over time to purchase further Thomas Cook shares on the open market with a view to increasing its shareholdi­ng up to approximat­ely 10pc of the enlarged issued ordinary share capital.’.

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