Buyers eye Thomas Cook stake

SHARES in holiday operator Thomas Cook yesterday jumped by 10 per cent to 235p despite the collapse of its majority shareholder Arcandor, on the back of bidder speculation.<br /><br />City A.M. understands that Germany&rsquo;s leading tour operator Rewe is one of several potential bidders interested in snapping up Arcandor&rsquo;s 52.8 per cent stake. It expressed an interest in the stake last month, and sources say that it could launch a full takeover offer if it does pick up the majority stake. <br /><br />German retail giant Arcandor yesterday applied for insolvency after the government denied the group a &euro;437m (&pound;377m) loan, saying it had failed to come up with a plan to protect taxpayer&rsquo;s money.<br /><br />Arcandor&rsquo;s creditor banks, BayernLB, Commerzbank and Royal Bank of Scotland are expected to put the stake up for sale or divest it in a placing.<br /><br />So far there are no negotiations with bidders, but sources close to the situation say that the banks are working hard to secure the highest price. <br /><br />KBC Peel Hunt analyst Nicholas Batram said: &ldquo;It is a golden opportunity for bidders. It&rsquo;s not often that such a large stake becomes available in an attractive company.&rdquo;<br /><br />Thomas Cook is currently valued at &pound;1.84bn. A realistic timetable for the banks&rsquo; sale of the stake, which is being used as collateral for loans, is within the next three to 12 months, sources said, adding that banks would start sounding out the market soon.