Chinese giant Fosun set to to swoop on Thomas Cook

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Thomas Cook’s biggest shareholder has held talks about buying its beleaguered tour operating business — a move that would see it pass into Chinese ownership.

Fosun Tourism Group, which already owns 18% of Thomas Cook, is working with bankers from JP Morgan on an offer for the 178-year-old company, according to a Sky News report.

Any bid would not include Thomas Cook’s airline, as Fosun would be barred from owning the carrier under EU aviation rules.

Thomas Cook, led by chief executive Peter Fankhauser, is fighting for survival because of a dent in bookings due to Brexit, and rising debt, which has spooked investors.

It is one of the world’s biggest holiday operators, carrying 22m customers a year. However, its shares have plunged 85.5% over the past year to 16.1p, giving a valuation of £247.4m.

Last month it issued a fresh profit warning and reported a half-year loss of almost £1.5bn after a £1.1bn write-off relating to its 2007 merger with MyTravel.

Thomas Cook has already kicked off a £1bn auction of its airline, which is said to have prompted interest from Portuguese carrier Hi Fly, Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and the investor Indigo Partners.

Any approach from Fosun, which owns Club Med, is likely to have an impact on Thomas Cook’s talks with the parties interested in the airline. A break-up would be complicated by the need to guarantee flights for its holidaymakers. Thomas Cook declined to comment, while Fosun did not respond to a request for comment.