Thomas Cook plays down airline sell-off talk

Thomas Cook plays down airline sell-off talk

Thomas Cook Group has played down speculation that it is seeking to sell its airline business as part of a cost-saving plan.

However, Europe’s second largest travel group may consider joint ventures to improve the performance of its aircraft fleet.

The company was responding to a Sunday Times report which claimed that Cook had sounded out a number of potential buyers over the last few months including rival carriers and private equity investors.

No deal has yet been reached and no talks are currently under way, the newspaper said.

The company was quoted as saying it was pleased with the development of its airline operations.

"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," it said.

Cook said it would consider linking up with other airlines, according to the report.

One possibility is a tie-up with its rival Monarch, which was rescued last autumn by investment firm Greybull Capital the newspaper suggested. Monarch’s previous management is understood to have studied plans to combine the two but the idea was shelved.

Other private equity players were reportedly exploring how to consolidate tour operators’ air fleets to make savings in the face of competition from low-cost online ventures and budget airlines.

Cook said earlier this month that it remained on course to grow this year despite tough trading conditions in Europe.

A Cook spokesman told the Times: “We are very pleased with the development of our airlines and the integration our four airlines have achieved so far. We have also invested in the refurbishment of the cabins of our long-haul fleet and we have added long-haul aircraft to our Condor fleet in Germany and the UK.”

While emphasising the airline’s importance to the group, it said: “Of course we are always open for opportunities which might include partnering with other partners or airlines.”

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