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Thomas Cook to Shift Focus to City Breaks

March 14, 2013

londonSimon Bowers, The Guardian, March 14, 2013

Thomas Cook has insisted the debt-laden tour operator was making good progress as it battles to cut costs and sell off divisions in order to stay within its stretched finances.

It promised to become more "hi-tech and high-touch" as it rolled out its turnaround strategy with a bigger focus on city breaks.

The business, which was forced to go to its lending banks for an emergency loan extension at the end of 2011, refused to concede that a rights issue would be required to restore the balance sheet to long-term health.

Such a move is widely expected, however, and Thomas Cook did start what it called a "capital structure review" to determine how best to deal with group borrowings.

Separately, finance director Michael Healy, who started in July last year, identified £50m of savings to be extracted from the business, adding to £300m already in train. Last week it said it would cuts 2,500 jobs in the UK as it closes 195 of its 10,070 high street outlets.

Chief executive Harriet Green said: "Stabilising the business has been our priority through addressing our cost and cash challenges, and strengthening the leadership team to create a more effective, aligned organisation focused on rigorous execution."

The UK remains a key target for cost cuts and Green plans to reduce the number of brands operating in Britain from 27 to nine. Among the businesses that Thomas Cook may sell are Neilson, its skiing venture,upmarket travel agent Elegant Resorts and Gold Medal, a long-haul specialist.

Last November, Thomas Cook posted losses of £485m, which Green described as a "unacceptable". Much of the loss related to writeoffs on deals entered into by past management.

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