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Sun seekers lift profits at Thomas Cook

HOLIDAY firm Thomas Cook yesterday beat annual profits forecasts after reporting consumers were still determined to take a summer holiday despite the downturn and swine flu fears.<br /><br />The holiday operator said that people were tending to book later, but winter bookings and summer 2010 was in line with expectations. Despite the country&rsquo;s current debt concerns, holidays in Dubai will not be discounted, said the group&rsquo;s chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa.<br /><br />He added that &ldquo;medium haul&rdquo; destinations, like Turkey and Egypt, had seen a surge in popularity for guaranteed summer sunshine.<br /><br />Thomas Cook reported underlying pre-tax profits for the year to 30 September of &pound;308.2m &ndash; defying City forecasts of a three per cent fall. <br /><br />The group, which carries around 6m British holidaymakers a year, said revenues lifted by six per cent to &pound;9.3bn from &pound;8.7bn the year before. <br /><br />Fontenla-Novoa said: &ldquo;We have delivered a strong performance in 2009 achieving full year results ahead of market expectations.&rdquo;<br /><br />Thomas Cook merged with the former Airtours business MyTravel in 2007 and said cost savings from the deal had been a higher-than- expected &pound;215m.<br /><br />&nbsp;But analysts were also cheered by the group&rsquo;s cautious optimism and a 10.3 per cent dividend hike to 10.75p.&nbsp; Astaire securities analyst Mark Brumby said: &ldquo;Thomas Cook is now the master of its own destiny and is doing pretty much everything right.&rdquo;