Cook Co-op retail joint venture to end

Cook Co-op retail joint venture to end

Thomas Cook Group is to take full control of its UK agency network, marking the end of a joint venture with The Co-operative Group after five years.

Cook will purchase The Co-operative Group’s 30% stake and Central England Co-operative’s 3.5% stake for £50 million and £5.8 million, respectively.

Following completion, which is expected in November next year, Cook will own 100% of the UK retail stores business as the Co-op moved to end the arrangement.

The joint venture was formed in October 2011 through the merger of the travel retail businesses of Thomas Cook, The Co-operative Group and Midlands Co-operative (now Central England Co-operative).

It has 764 stores in the UK across two brands – Thomas Cook and The Co-operative Travel. Cook retains the right to use the Co-operative Travel brand until November 2018.

The transaction is not expected to have a material impact on the group’s profit and loss account, Cook said,

Group chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “Our relationship with the Co-op has given us a strong presence on the high street and fantastic colleagues across the UK, both of which are so important in attracting and inspiring our customers. 

“This purchase gives us full control over our retail store network, enabling us to better integrate our stores with our online offering, while also helping us to focus on growing sales of added extras such as holiday-related financial services.

“Over the next two years, we will bring all of our UK stores under the Thomas Cook banner so we can make full use of the best brand in travel.”

Co-op consumer services chief executive Rod Bulmer said:  “We have enjoyed a successful partnership with Thomas Cook through the joint venture. 

“Going forward, having a minority stake in a travel business does not fit with the strategy of the Co-op.

“The financial arrangements for exit that were put in place as part of the original JV agreement represent the best value for our members. The payments we receive from the exit will be used to invest in our core business areas.”

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