Troubled travel giant Thomas Cook faces a multi-million-pound takeover bid from the Chinese owners of Wolves.
Fosun International, which also owns Club Med, is in talks to buy Thomas Cook’s tour operating arm, which could lead to the break-up of the 178-year-old British business.
The possible takeover also raises a question mark over the fate of Thomas Cook’s 20,000-strong workforce.
The UK’s oldest travel operator, with 21 million annual customers, last month reported a £1.5billion loss.
Unions called last night for an “urgent meeting” with the holiday firm to seek reassurances on jobs.
Fosun – led by billionaire Guo Guangchang (right) – bought Wolverhampton Wanderers FC for £30 million in July 2016. It has invested tens of millions of pounds in the football club.
The Chinese conglomerate, which made a record £1.5billion profit last year, is Thomas Cook’s biggest shareholder with an 18 per cent stake, putting almost £100million into the firm.
Discussions between Thomas Cook and Fosun are believed to be at an early stage.
But if the deal goes ahead, it would be one of the biggest takeovers of a British business by a Chinese rival.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the transport union TSSA, said: “These are worrying times for our members. The company has already announced the closure of high-street shops after the losses due to Brexit uncertainty.
“Now we have speculation about the potential break-up of the company. We will press the company for details of any buyout plans.”
Fosun is believed to be working with City bankers at JP Morgan on making an offer for the bulk of Thomas Cook’s business.
A formal bid could come within the next few weeks. But any purchase would not include Thomas Cook’s airline business, as that would not be allowed under the EU’s aviation rules.
Since being bought by Fosun, Wolves have gained promotion to the Premier League, as well as reaching this year’s FA Cup semi-finals.
Mr Guangchang, who is referred to as the “Warren Buffett of the East”, boasts a personal fortune valued at around £5billion.
Thomas Cook, headed by chief exec Peter Fankhauser, has already put its fleet of 105 jets up for sale to pay debts.
The slimmed-down firm is also shutting 21 high-street shops and cutting 300-plus jobs.
These are turbulent time for the UK travel industry.
Tui has reported half-year losses of £261million, regional airline Flybmi went bust in February and Monarch Airlines collapsed in 2017.
Thomas Cook did not comment.
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