The TSSA union has demanded more details of a preliminary bid by Cook’s largest shareholder, Chinese leisure group Fosun, for its tour operator business.
Cook described the approach, which it confirmed on Monday (10 June), as “preliminary”, with “no certainty” it would result in a formal offer from Fosun.
Late last month, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes claimed Cook was not planning “major changes” to its operating model following reports in the consumer press Cook was considering a switch to become an online holiday marketplace, and was “absolutely committed” to retaining a high street presence.
Cook, though, played down Cortes’s comments, stressing its priority was to maximise the potential of its retail network through efficiency savings. In March, The operator announced plans to shut a further 21 end-of-lease stores.
Cook boss Peter Fankhauser reiterated to TTG last week while Cook’s retail network was now under constant review, high street shops remained a key part of its distribution model alongside online sales.
While little yet is known of Fosun’s approach, the Chinese leisure giant – which owns Club Med – has steadily increased its stake in Cook in recent years.
It took an initial 5% shareholding in Cook in 2015, which it extended to 11% in May 2017 and later to 17% and finally 18% in April.
The two groups embarked on a joint venture, Thomas Cook China, in September 2016, and plan to open two hotels in China in 2020 and 2021, one of which is expected to be a Casa Cook property.
Cook has this year announced reviews of its group airline, retail network and money division, and has confirmed it has received “multiple bids” for its airline and a bid for its Nordic operation. This has prompted speculation the group could be broken up and sold off in bits. Cook has declined to comment on any speculation around its future.
This week, Cortes said the TSSA would “resist any break-up of the company”, adding it would now “step up its efforts” to meet with Cook to discuss its future and the future of its members’ jobs.
“We urgently demand more details on Fosun’s intentions for the future of this historic British institution amid ongoing Brexit uncertainty,” he said.
“These are worrying times for our members and we would resist any break-up of Thomas Cook which would be detrimental to jobs but also the high street as whole."
A Cook spokesperson said: “We’re always happy to speak to the TSSA, as we are with any of the unions we have a relationship with.”
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