Could a sell-off of Thomas Cook’s airline be on the cards? It’s a possibility, according to a report in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Europe’s second largest holiday company has been sounding out potential buyers, including private equity types and rival airlines, in the last few months, the report said.
The 173-year old business is currently in the process of a turnaround after nearly collapsing in 2011. Things have been looking fairly on track since then, but Harriet Green, its chief executive since July 2012, stepped down in November despite saying just days before that she still had work to do. The company’s shares fell as much as 6% when it announced like-for-like profits were flat in its first quarter earlier this month.
Green is thought to have initiated plans for a sell-off. A Thomas Cook spokesperson told the Sunday Times that, ‘We are very pleased with the development of our airline operation . . . We see it as an important part of our business and a support of our profitable growth strategy.’
‘Of course, we are always open for opportunities,’ the spokesperson added, suggesting that a sale isn’t necessarily totally out of the question, but the company said it was interested in exploring joint ventures or partnerships with other airlines to improve its performance.
The division has been key to its turnaround and the company has invested in refurbishing its 88-strong fleet. It has also ordered 25 new Airbus A321s. All this cash could be seen as a way to make the airline work better for the parent company, but it could also be a sign it is being tarted up for a potential buyer.