Some “good news” has arrived at last for Thomas Cook’s shareholders, says the Financial Times. China’s Fosun International Ltd is considering bidding for the beleaguered British travel company’s tour operating division. Fosun’s bid comes shortly after Thomas Cook outlined plans to sell its airline in order to gain access to a new £300m financing facility. Whatever happens with Fosun, the airline sale is likely to go ahead since, under EU rules, the Chinese group wouldn’t be allowed to own a majority stake in it anyway.
If you own shares in Thomas Cook, you shouldn’t get carried away, since a sale to Fosun “is unlikely to leave investors much wealthier”, says Lex in the FT. Even after this week’s uptick, the stock is still 90% below last year’s peak. While it is “a vintage brand plenty of Chinese tourists would appreciate”, high indebtedness “weakens Thomas Cook’s hand” in talks with Fosun, which has already spent £200m on an 18% stake .
Thomas Cook’s shareholders should be grateful if they get anything, since the alternative is “complete wipeout”, says Christopher Williams in The Daily Telegraph. Remember, “it won’t be the shareholders calling the shots in this situation” as it’s “the banks and hedge funds that hold the company’s distressed bonds” who have the final say on the deal. They will judge it on Fosun’s “plans for the future”.
If they are not convinced that Fosun’s plans “come with cash to pay down debt”, they could choose to take control of the company themselves. That would also mean that Fosun’s £200m investment would be reduced to ashes.