Private equity firm Triton bids for Thomas Cook's Nordic operations

Credit: REUTERS/Thomas White

Thomas Cook has received a takeover approach for its Nordic operations from private equity group Triton, the tour operator said on Thursday, adding that it was considering the unsolicited offer but talks were at a preliminary stage.

Updates with confirmation from Thomas Cook

LONDON, May 23 (Reuters) - Thomas Cook TCG.L has received a takeover approach for its Nordic operations from private equity group Triton, the tour operator said on Thursday, adding that it was considering the unsolicited offer but talks were at a preliminary stage.

The world's oldest travel firm is already considering a sale of its airline unit to raise cash after a string of profit warnings since last summer stoked investor concern about its ability to pay its debts.

The bid from Triton Partners is for its Northern Europe business, comprising its tour operator and airline in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, the company said.

"Thomas Cook Group confirms that it has received a highly preliminary and unsolicited indicative offer from Triton Partners for its Northern Europe business," the company said in a statement.

"The group is currently evaluating this offer."

The Scandinavian airline mainly serves Thomas Cook's Northern Europe Tour Operator, which had underlying earnings before interest and tax of 95 million pounds ($120 million) in 2018, compared to a loss of 7 million pounds for the UK tour operator.

Shares in Thomas Cook reversed early losses to trade up 5.6%on the news.

The Scandinavian business is a mainstay of Thomas Cook's winter business as many northern Europeans want to fly south in search of warmer weather.

Thomas Cook said that the bid would be considered alongside bids for its airline business.

It said last week it had received multiple bids for the whole or parts of the airline unit as it issued its third profit warning in under a year, citing discounting in the face of weak market conditions.

Thomas Cook Airlines consists of Germany's Condor, British and Spanish divisions, in addition to the Scandinavian operations.

Triton already owns European online tour operator Sunweb, which serves around 1 million customers annually.

"There can be no certainty that a transaction will be concluded with Triton Partners," Thomas Cook said. "Thomas Cook Group will make a further announcement as appropriate."

($1 = 0.7910 pounds)

(Reporting by Alistair Smout Editing by Paul Sandle/Keith Weir)

((alistair.smout@thomsonreuters.com; +44 207 542 7064; Reuters Messaging: alistair.smout.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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