Thomas Cook widens loss on Brexit-related writedown


London (AFP)

Thomas Cook widened first-half losses on a major writedown caused in part by Brexit uncertainty that has delayed summer holiday bookings, the British tour operator said Thursday.

It posted a net loss of £1.474 billion ($1.893 billion, 1.689 billion euros) in the six months to March 31, as customers also put off trips abroad last winter.

The troubled group noted meanwhile that it had received "multiple" bids for its airline business, amid speculation that it could even face a full takeover attempt.

Thomas Cook's share price slumped 15 percent in early London trading.

"The first six months of this year have been characterised by an uncertain consumer environment across all our markets," chief executive Peter Fankhauser said in an earnings statement.

"The prolonged heatwave last summer and high prices in the Canaries reduced customer demand for winter sun... while there is now little doubt that the Brexit process has led many UK customers to delay their holiday plans for this summer.

"Our loss from operations for the period was £1.4 billion ... largely related to the merger with MyTravel in 2007 which we have re-valued in light of the weak trading environment," Fankhauser added.

The chief executive added that higher fuel and hotel costs were "creating further headwinds" to the company's progress for the remainder of its financial year ending in September.

Thomas Cook's loss after tax, following a writedown of £1.1 billion, compared with a net loss of £254 million in the first half of the company's 2017/18 financial year, it said.

"Thomas Cook's latest trading statement makes for grim reading," noted Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers.

"The one glimmer of good news is that the company has secured £300 million of fresh funding from lenders, although that's dependent on the sale of its airline business."

Fankhauser on Thursday said Thomas Cook had "received multiple bids, including for the whole, or parts, of the airline business".