Sky News reported at the weekend that Fosun, which is already Thomas Cook’s biggest shareholder with an 18% stake, was in ‘secret talks’ about making an offer.
The report said Fosun, which operates a Chinese joint venture with Thomas Cook, was working with bankers at JP Morgan on a bid.
Sources indicated discussions were at an early stage, but a formal bid ‘could come within weeks’. Thomas Cook did not comment initially, but has since issued a statement saying: “Thomas Cook Group notes media reports regarding a potential offer for its tour operator business from Fosun International Limited (‘Fosun’), the group’s largest shareholder.
“Thomas Cook confirms that it is in discussions with Fosun following receipt of a preliminary approach.
“There can be no certainty that this approach will result in a formal offer. However, the Board will consider any potential offer alongside the other strategic options that it has, with the aim of maximising value for all its stakeholders.
“The Company will make a further announcement as appropriate.”
Any deal would not include Thomas Cook’s airline business, as Fosun would not be able to buy it under EU aviation ownership rules, according to the Sky report.
Thomas Cook put its airline business up for sale earlier this year and has closed some of its shops, although it has said it remains committed to the UK high street.
Fosun was tipped as a likely bidder for Thomas Cook at the end of April, shortly before the operator posted a loss of £1.45bn in the six months to the end of March. As a result, its equity was rated at zero by analysts from investment bank Citi and it was downgraded by ratings agencies Fitch and S&P Global.