Thomas Cook bosses will hold a crunch meeting today as the fate of the world’s oldest travel company hangs in the balance.
The board, led by chief executive Peter Fankhauser, has been battling to secure an extra £200m of rescue funding to keep the tour operator flying. It made a last-ditch appeal for a state bailout this weekend after its lenders threatened to pull out of a proposed rescue deal, but ministers are believed to be wary of propping it up.
Board members spoke on a frantic lunchtime call yesterday to discuss Thomas Cook’s future. All the parties involved will meet today at the offices of the company’s lawyers, Slaughter and May, in a final attempt to salvage a deal. If the talks fail, they are likely to appoint AlixPartners as administrator.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is on standby to repatriate more than 150,000 passengers should the company collapse.
Thomas Cook’s latest problem came after its lenders, including Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, demanded it secure £200m to cover any shortfall over the winter season, on top of a £900m rescue agreement.
A source close to the bondholders indicated they had also become twitchy over the deal with Fosun — a debt-for-equity swap that involves the Chinese conglomerate putting in £450m, the banks £300m and the debt holders £150m. It needs support from Thomas Cook’s pension trustees, bondholders and creditors.
A source close to the talks said the CAA was “not ready” for the company to collapse last night. To repatriate passengers, it would need to lease hundreds of aircraft at a cost of more than £100m to the taxpayer. Thomas Cook declined to comment.