Holiday giant Thomas Cook to buy out Co-operative Travel

Peterborough-based Thomas Cook is to buy out its trading partner Co-operative Travel in a deal worth £55.8 million.

Thomas Cook. ENGEMN00120141202145948

Thomas Cook, which employs 1,200 people in Lynch Wood, will take full ownership of the 764 stores across the UK.

The move will see those stores rebranded by Thomas Cook by November 2018.

The staff at the stores are employed by Thomas Cook.

Dr Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook. ENGEMN00120121130145645

The move ends a partnership that started in October 2011 with the merger of the travel retail businesses of Thomas Cook, The Co-operative Group and Midlands Co-operative (now Central England Co-operative).

The partnership has been ended by the Co-op which is exercising its option under the partnership to sell its stake.

Thomas Cook will buy The Co-operative Group’s 30 per cent stake for £50 million and Central England Co-operative’s 3.5 per cent stake for £5.8 million. The deal should be completed by November 2017.

Thomas Cook Group chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “This gives us full control over our retail store network, enabling us to better integrate our stores with our online offering, while also helping us to focus on growing sales of added extras such as holiday-related financial services.

Dr Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook. ENGEMN00120121130145645

“Over the next two years, we will bring all of our UK stores under the Thomas Cook banner so we can make full use of the best brand in travel.

“Our relationship with the Co-op has given us a strong presence on the high street and fantastic colleagues across the UK, both of which are so important in attracting and inspiring our customers.

Rod Bulmer, chief executive, consumer services at the Co-op, said: “We have enjoyed a successful partnership with Thomas Cook through the joint venture.

“Going forward, having a minority stake in a travel business does not fit with the strategy of the Co-op.

“The financial arrangements for exit that were put in place as part of the original JV agreement represent the best value for our members.

“The payments we receive from the exit will be used to invest in our core business areas.”

A spokesperson from Central England Co-operative said: “Despite the Joint Venture between Thomas Cook and Co-operative Group coming to an end, all 20 Co-operative Travel stores owned and run by Central England Co-operative are open for business as usual, and are unaffected by the recent end to the joint venture agreement with Thomas Cook Group.

“Customers and members will still be able to book their travel and holiday arrangements through each of our stores and enjoy membership benefits.”

Among these Co-operative Travel stores owned and run by the Central England Co-operative are branches in Peterborough, Bourne, Market Deeping, March, Spalding, Wisbech, Diss, King’s Lynn and Thetford.