British travel giant Thomas Cook has confirmed that China’s Fosun Tourism Group was in talks to buy its tour operator business.
Fosun, which acquired a minority stake in Thomas Cook in 2015, is already the group’s biggest shareholder with an 18 per cent stake. The Shanghai-based conglomerate is also the owner of Club Med.
There is no certainty that this approach will result in a formal bid from the Hong Kong-listed Fosun, Thomas Cook said in a statement. “However, the board will consider any potential offer alongside the other strategic options that it has, with the aim of maximising value for all its stakeholders.”
When contacted by TTG Asia for comments, a Fosun spokesperson replied: “Fosun Tourism Group follows Thomas Cook’s recent developments and maintains normal communication with its board of directors. We have no further information to disclose now.”
At the recent Skift Forum Asia, Fosun Tourism Group chairman and CEO Qian Jiannong did not deny the possibility of a Thomas Cook takeover although he declined to comment further.
At the forum, Qian also described Fosun’s joint venture with Thomas Cook in China as “very successful”. The two partners have developed their own-brand properties in southern China and near Shanghai, opening up the domestic Chinese market to Thomas Cook.
Acquiring Thomas Cook would make sense for Fosun, as it steps up its focus of creating a synergy among its resorts, destination and tourism products.
The takeover move, if it goes through, is expected to break up the 178-year-old tour British tour operator. The ailing company is already looking to sell its airline business, and last month said it had received a takeover approach for its Nordic operations from private equity group Triton.
Thomas Cook has in recent years come under multiple headwinds, citing uncertainty around Brexit and last year’s summer heatwave to have affected bookings. The British travel giant has declared a 1.5 billion pound (US$1.3 billion) loss in 1H2019, and has already closed down 21 stores.