TUI to consider buying the rest of its UK tour operator

Marion Dakers
EUROPE’S biggest tour operator TUI is considering buying the remaining shares in British unit TUI Travel to refocus on tourism.

The German group’s supervisory board is set to discuss next week whether to buy the 42.5 per cent of TUI Travel it does not already own, either in cash or in shares, according to sources.

However, another source said the group hopes to sell its stake in shipping group Hapag-Lloyd before beefing up its tourism business. Hapag-Lloyd was battered by the recession and the firm has not decided on a timescale for its disposal.

“The firm has always said it’s an option to buy the [TUI Travel] shares, but at the moment they are not in a position to do this,” a person familiar with the company said.

UK-listed shares in the British unit closed up 7.5 per cent at 216p in response to the speculation. TUI Travel competes with Thomas Cook in the UK. TUI Travel’s stock has lost more than 20 per cent of its value so far this year, pummelled by fallout from the global economic crisis and government budget-cutting measures. TUI refused to comment on market rumours.