Chinese conglomerate Fosun has snapped up Thomas Cook for US$14.2 million, weeks after the renowned British travel group went bust. Credit: File photo.

Thomas Cook has lined up a £750 mn (US$943 mn) rescue package that would leave Chinese conglomerate Fosun in control of the 178-year-old tour operator but likely to almost wipe out existing shareholders, the Financial Times reported.

Shares plunged more than 50 per cent after Thomas Cook revealed plans to restructure its business, while bonds rallied as investors began negotiations over a deal to swap debt for new equity to secure the company’s future.

Thomas Cook, which began offering one-day rail excursions more than 150 years ago, has suffered as customers shifted from the high street to the internet, threatening its ability to service a £1.6 bn (US$2 bn) debt pile, the FT report said.

The plan represents a significant gamble for Fosun, the Chinese group which owns holiday group Club Med and has had a stake in Thomas Cook since 2015.

“The board has concluded that it is in the best interests of all the group’s stakeholders to pursue a full recapitalization of the group supported by new investment in the business,” said Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook chief executive.

He added that there would be “no impact from today’s announcement on our holidays or our flights, the FT report said.

Thomas Cook said that the £750m would provide “sufficient liquidity” to navigate the second half of the year as well as cover investment in the business. The company employs 21,000 staff globally and operates about 567 high-street stores in the UK.

Richard Clarke, an analyst at Bernstein, said: “They needed to sort it before winter because, otherwise, banks would give up on it.”

Although the capital injection led by Fosun would mean the Chinese group takes a majority stake, it would only end up with a minority holding in the airline operation that Thomas Cook has been trying to sell since February, the FT report said.

Fosun, which owns almost a fifth of the shares in Thomas Cook, said that its “ambition is to grow Thomas Cook China into a major brand in the China travel market.”

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