Tour operator Thomas Cook mulls sale of its airline unit

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According to English newspaper The Sunday Times, the heavily indebted Thomas Cook Group eyes the sale of at least a part of its airline in order to raise cash and to fuel expansion.

The group is burdened with an unsustainable debt of £886 million against yearly profits of only £12 million. Selling the airline with a guarantee to fill at least 50% of the seats could make the deal attractive. Furthermore, Thomas Cook has prepared a possible sale by merging its different airline brands into a single company. And the split-off airline could more easily find cash to buy new aircraft and expand.

The Chinese conglomerate Fosun, which owns already 12% of the Group, could be a possible investor.

But another possibility would be Lufthansa: its subsidiary Brussels Airlines has already struck a deal with Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, acquiring two of its aircraft and becoming the main supplier of seats for the holidaymakers of the Belgian branch of the tour operator. Furthermore, Lufthansa has already been a 50% shareholder of Condor, the German airline of Thomas Cook.

Anyway, nothing will happen in the immediate future, according to Thomas Cook, which says nevertheless that it is open to any consolidation which makes sense for its business.

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