Tui and Thomas Cook pare back winter losses

Marion Dakers
THOMAS Cook came out best in yesterday’s slew of travel company updates, though a shareholder rebellion over executive pay cast a cloud over its turnaround efforts.

The world’s oldest travel firm managed to narrow its quarterly operating losses to £69.8m, from £91.1m a year earlier.

But its sales figures took a knock over the winter, with revenues down 7.4 per cent to £1.7bn for the final three months of 2012.

As part of its recovery plan, Thomas Cook has reduced its net debt by £86m to £1.56bn over the last year, and it expects to cut costs by a further £60m.

Shares closed up 19.5 per cent at 85.5p yesterday.

Despite new chief executive Harriet Green’s progress, 29.7 per cent of investors refused to back Thomas Cook’s remuneration report at yesterday’s shareholder meeting.

Green is entitled to an annual salary of £680,000 for 2012, with a maximum annual bonus worth 225 per cent of salary.

Meanwhile Tui Travel, operator of the Thomson and First Choice brands, also impressed investors yesterday with an upbeat forecast for the summer, in spite of operating losses mounting in the quarter to the end of December.

The firm posted an underlying operating loss of £116m as revenues fell four per cent to £2.7bn, mostly driven by currency movements.

Customer numbers fell three per cent on a year ago to 3.57m during the period, but sales of specialist holidays rose five per cent to 254,000.

The firm expects to deliver full-year profits at the top end of its guidance.

“We are pleased to report that our strong trading momentum has continued with particularly encouraging growth in the UK and Nordics,” said chief executive Peter Long.

UK selling prices for the summer are up four per cent as holidaymakers plump for more expensive trips. In France, however, Tui has cut capacity by a third.

And Stena Line yesterday posted record passenger numbers for its North Sea ferry services, though traffic on its Calais services dropped 6.6 per cent. Stena Line pinned the blame for the fall on the Olympics.