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MoneyThomas Cook in battle with pension scheme over £900m rescue

05:05  08 september  2019
05:05  08 september  2019 Source:   news.sky.com

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Thomas Cook 's pension scheme trustees are demanding sweetened terms to back a £ 900 m rescue of the travel group, Sky News learns. Credit rating agencies have downgraded Thomas Cook in the wake of a £ 1.5bn half-year loss. The company has become embroiled in an increasingly frantic bid to

Thomas Cook 's £ 900 m rescue is under threat after pension trustees made a string of demands on the troubled travel agent. Shares in Thomas Cook have nosedived over the last 18 months. A company that in the spring of 2018 had been Thomas Cook and the pension scheme declined to comment.

Thomas Cook in battle with pension scheme over £900m rescue © Getty Sources said the pensions regulator had also been involved in talks about the situation Thomas Cook Group is locked in a stand-off with its pension scheme trustees ahead of a crucial week that could determine the fate of a £900m rescue deal.

Sky News has learnt that the trustees demanded at a meeting earlier this week that they receive sweetened terms in exchange for backing the recapitalisation of the world's oldest tour operator.

Sources said the pension scheme, which is in surplus on an accounting basis, was seeking equity in the restructured company, funding guarantees and a commitment from the new owners to continue existing annual contributions of more than £25m.

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Thomas Cook Group is in talks with its lenders to increase the size of a rescue fundraising to £ 1bn after Britain’s oldest travel agent warned it could One City insider said that the standby facility was not expected to be drawn upon and that the travel group continued to believe that the £ 900 m it has

Thomas Cook bosses face scrutiny over collapse. Thomas Cook collapse: What are your rights? Top directors at the holiday company have been paid a Thomas Cook had secured a £ 900 m rescue deal led by its largest shareholder Chinese firm Fosun in August, but a recent demand from its banks to

Video: China's Fosun set to save Thomas Cook as key terms agreed (Reuters)

Those contributions are designed to ensure the scheme is fully funded under a low-risk self-sufficiency valuation method.

The company is understood to have highlighted concerns about the trustees' demands, arguing that it is for other stakeholders - including China's Fosun Tourism Group - to determine whether they are realistic.

One stakeholder said the trustees' requests were "ludicrous given the haircuts other creditors were taking".

The trustees have appointed the accountancy firm Grant Thornton and the public relations outfit Smithfield to advise them.

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The rescue deal involves Thomas Cook – which served about 22m people last year with flights and package holidays – breaking up and selling most Last night Thomas Cook was locked in lastminute talks to push back a meeting with its bondholders. A group of hedge funds which have taken positions

Thomas Cook had secured a £ 900 m rescue deal led by its largest shareholder Chinese firm Fosun in August, but a recent demand from its banks to raise Thomas Cook has blamed a series of issues for its problems, including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer's prolonged

Sources said The Pensions Regulator had also been involved in talks about the situation.

Under the terms of the rescue plan, on which Thomas Cook said 10 days ago it had reached "substantial agreement", Fosun would inject £450m of new money into the company, in return for 75% of its tour operating business and 25% of its airline.

Lending banks and bondholders would contribute £450m in aggregate and write off £1.7bn in existing debt in exchange for the remaining stakes in the two divisions.

That would leave shareholders being effectively wiped out by the restructuring.

Thomas Cook in battle with pension scheme over £900m rescue © Getty Fosun would inject £450m of new money into the company under the terms of a rescue plan EU ownership rules prohibit Fosun from controlling the Thomas Cook airline‎ business.

The stand-off between Thomas Cook and its pension trustees has added to the complexity of finalising the rescue bid by early October.

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Thomas Cook 's bosses will face scrutiny as part of an investigation into the tour operator's collapse. Customers can seek compensation via the government's Air Travel Organiser's Licence scheme (Atol) scheme , or What went wrong? Thomas Cook had secured a £ 900 m rescue deal led by its largest

Conversely, Thomas Cook ’s creditors will also pump in £ 450m and convert debt into equity in the company – 25 per cent of the tour operation and Its architectural legacy lives on in the southwestern state of Karnataka with over 1,000 well-preserved stone monuments, including Hindu temples, forts

Sources said this weekend that a crucial board meeting next Wednesday was likely to decide on the optimal route to completing the deal in the next four weeks.

They added that this could mean cancelling Thomas Cook's public listing.

A source close to the board said this weekend said it "continued to remain committed to seeking a solution for shareholders".

The company needs to receive the new money from the recapitalisation by early October in order to pay key suppliers.

Thomas Cook also needs to persuade the Civil Aviation Authority, which administers the ATOL scheme that covers travel companies, that it should renew its licence at the end of September for another 12 months.

Current trading is understood to remain difficult, with the ongoing political crisis in Westminster contributing to soft consumer demand for autumn and winter bookings.

The urgency surrounding the rescue talks highlights the difficulties facing a company that recorded £9.6bn of revenue last year and employs 21,000 people.

11m customers will have travelled with Thomas Cook by the end of the crucial summer season, making it one of the UK's most prominent consumer brands.

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Thomas Cook in battle with pension scheme over £900m rescue Pedestrians walk past a branch of a Thomas Cook travel agent's shop in London on July 12, 2019. - China's Fosun Group is considering nearly a billion dollar rescue of embattled British tour operator Thomas Cook, the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate confirmed Friday. The Chinese company said in a stock market announcement that there are "ongoing advanced discussions" about a capital injection which would see a debt-for-equity swap at the British travel agency, which has struggled with its debt pile. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / various sources / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images) Fosun Tourism Group, which owns Club Med, is understood to remain committed to the rescue deal in principle, having built a big stake in the London-listed company during the last four years.

Shares in Thomas Cook have whipsawed for months as investors have sought to calculate whether the stock retains any residual value.

On Friday, they closed at 5.44p, valuing the company at less than £87m.

Despite the calamitous decline, Fosun views Thomas Cook as a valuable platform for further expansion into the European travel market..

Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 by a 32 year-old cabinet-maker and former Baptist preacher who began offering one-day rail excursions from Leicester to Loughborough for a shilling.

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From there, it went on to become one of the world's largest holiday companies, marking its 175th anniversary four years ago.

Thomas Cook and Fosun have a joint venture in China which is showing strong growth, with an eightfold increase in customers last year.

Thomas Cook in battle with pension scheme over £900m rescue A sign is pictured above a branch of a Thomas Cook travel agent's shop in London on July 12, 2019. - China's Fosun Group is considering nearly a billion dollar rescue of embattled British tour operator Thomas Cook, the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate confirmed Friday. The Chinese company said in a stock market announcement that there are "ongoing advanced discussions" about a capital injection which would see a debt-for-equity swap at the British travel agency, which has struggled with its debt pile. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / various sources / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

The introduction of own-brand resorts in the world's second-largest economy has also opened up the domestic Chinese market to Thomas Cook.

In recent months, Thomas Cook has fielded varying degrees in parts or all of its airline, its northern European business, and its tour operator.

Neset Kockar, a Turkish travel industry executive, has also taken an 8% stake in the group and signalled that he wants to play a role in the outcome of the rescue talks.

Fosun is working with bankers at Lazard on the proposed deal, while the company is working with PJT Partners and its syndicate of lenders is being advised by FTI Consulting.

Credit rating agencies have downgraded Thomas Cook in the wake of a £1.5bn half-year loss.

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The company has become embroiled in an increasingly frantic bid to shore up confidence among consumers and lenders as it pointed to the absence of a Brexit deal's impact on customers' willingness to book overseas holidays during the crucial summer period.

Thomas Cook and its pension trustees declined to comment‎ this weekend.

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Thomas Cook in battle with pension scheme over £900m rescue

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