Britain’s Thomas Cook scrambles for $250m to avert collapse

Lenders are demanding another £200 million in underwritten funds to support Thomas Cook in its winter trading period. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2019

Britain’s Thomas Cook scrambles for $250m to avert collapse

  • Thomas Cook employs 21,000 people across 16 countries
  • Lenders are demanding another £200 million in underwritten funds to support Thomas Cook in its winter trading period

LONDON: Britain’s Thomas Cook scrambled on Friday to find an extra $251 million (£200 million) to satisfy its lenders and secure the survival of the world’s oldest holiday company.
Last month Thomas Cook, the pioneer of the package tour, agreed key terms of a £900 million recapitalization plan with Chinese shareholder Fosun and its banks.
Thomas Cook, which employs 21,000 people across 16 countries, warned on Friday that this could mean shareholders losing all of their investment.
“The recapitalization is expected to result in existing shareholders’ interests being significantly diluted, with significant risk of no recovery,” Thomas Cook said.
Lenders are demanding another £200 million in underwritten funds to support Thomas Cook in its winter trading period, when its cash is usually at a low ebb.
“Discussions to agree final terms on the recapitalization and reorganization of the company are continuing between the company and a range of stakeholders,” Thomas Cook said.
“These discussions include a recent request for a seasonal standby facility of £200 million, on top of the previously announced 900 million pounds injection of new capital.”
Thomas Cook, which has around 600,000 customers on holiday in Europe, has struggled with competition in popular destinations, high debt levels and an unusually hot summer in 2018 which reduced last-minute bookings.
A source close to the discussions said on Thursday that Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had hit Thomas Cook with a last-minute demand for the extra funding, adding that the situation “was becoming more critical.”
A spokesman for RBS said the bank did not “recognize this characterization of events” and was working with all parties to “try and find a resolution to the funding and liquidity shortfall at Thomas Cook.”
Under the original terms of the plan, Fosun — whose Chinese parent owns all-inclusive holiday firm Club Med — would contribute £450 million ($552 million) of new money in return for at least 75 percent of the tour operator business and 25 percent of the group’s airline.
Thomas Cook’s lending banks and bondholders were to stump up a further £450 million and convert their existing debt to equity, giving them in total about 75 percent of the airline and up to 25 percent in the tour operator business, the group said.
Thomas Cook said on Friday it would provide further updates “in due course.”


Egypt to press ahead with sale of stakes in state companies — govt adviser

Updated 1 min 22 sec ago

Egypt to press ahead with sale of stakes in state companies — govt adviser

  • The government has been talking for years about selling the stakes but has repeatedly postponed the program
  • The government set up NI Capital in late 2015 as a state-owned financial services company to help it navigate financial markets

CAIRO: Egypt is fully committed to its program to sell minority stakes in state companies and is tackling a number of issues that have held it up, a government adviser on the share sales said on Thursday.
The government has been talking for years about selling the stakes but has repeatedly postponed the program, raising doubts among some economists about its commitment to privatization.
“From the meetings I attend on a weekly basis, the government is as keen as I have ever seen them on proceeding with the privatization program,” Mohamed Metwally, CEO of NI Capital, told Reuters.
“There has never been slack on this. It’s just a matter of sometimes you face things that take longer to prepare than expected,” said Metwally in his first interview with the media since taking over as NI Capital’s CEO in July.
The government set up NI Capital in late 2015 as a state-owned financial services company to help it navigate financial markets.
The government announced in 2016 that it was selling company stakes, with some to be sold by the end of that year. Since then it has sold only 4.5% of one company, tobacco monopoly Eastern Company in a transaction in March.
Metwally said the delays had been caused by weak markets, legal hurdles, the readiness of each company’s financial documentation and in the case of some companies a downturn in the business cycle.
Egypt last year released a list of 23 state-controlled companies to be brought to market as an initial batch.
The first sales will be companies already trading on the Egyptian Exchange, most likely Abu Qir Fertilizers and Chemicals Industries and Alexandria Container and Cargo Handling Co., sources familiar with the planned transactions told Reuters.
Metwally, citing reasons of financial compliance, declined to discuss individual companies before they reached the market.
He said stake sales could raise around 40 billion Egyptian pounds, roughly equal to 5% of the stock market’s current capitalization of 750 billion-800 billion pounds.
Among the hurdles bringing companies to market has been a tangle of ownership structures, with different entities requiring different legal processes for selling their assets.
“We had a few transactions that were held up by this process, but now it’s behind us,” Metwally said.
A potential future delay to the Egyptian share sales could be the initial public offering of Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Aramco, which may be announced as early as next week.
“Right now liquidity is being sucked out of the market because of anticipation of the Aramco offering,” Metwally said.
If the Aramco sale raises more than $25 billion, it would make it the world’s biggest IPO.
“Now should it (the Egyptian sales) happen, let’s say, in November, or wait till January or February when the Aramco IPO is out of the way?” he said.
Another stumbling block has been the trade war between China and the United States, which by creating a glut in products sold by some of the companies reduced their prices by 30-40% and temporarily lowered valuations, Metwally said.
He said these issues were all being resolved, paving the way for a possibly rapid roll-out.
“Progress is happening in every single transaction,” he said.
“That might put us in a high-quality problem in the future, in which they’re all ready at the same time, and we’ll just have to schedule them one after the other as part of our capital markets management process.”