Cook’s plane deal to raise £183m

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Thomas Cook has agreed to sell and lease back 17 aircraft, providing £183m to ease pressure on the debt-laden travel company after its first-half loss widened.

Chief executive Sam Weihagen said yesterday the aircraft disposals provided substantial additional liquidity against a backdrop of a difficult trading environment.

“As expected, the first-half seasonal losses have widened. However, summer bookings have improved in recent weeks,” he said.

“Whilst our booking position for the second half is more encouraging, trading will be dependent on how well the group performs during the important lates market (short-notice bookings),” the group added.

Shore Capital analyst Karl Burns said whilst the sale and leaseback deals would help its cash balance, debt ratios were unlikely to be affected, given that the leases would be capitalised.

“We retain our ‘hold’ recommendation, given the significant likelihood of an equity raising,” he said.

The company, which appointed ex-Kwik-Fit finance boss Michael Healy as chief financial officer on Wednesday, said UK bookings for the summer season were down 9 per cent, ahead of capacity reductions of 13 per cent, while average selling prices were stable, with a 4 per cent rise.

Trading in western Europe, and notably in France, was challenging, it said, while in northern Europe bookings were down 6 per cent but had continued to improve.

The group’s seasonal loss from operations for the six months to end-March widened to £262.7m from £165.8m.