UPDATE 1-TUI Travel sees encouraging winter holiday sales

Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:33am EDT

LONDON, Sept 27 (Reuters) - TUI Travel, the world's biggest tour operator, said it had sold more summer holidays this year than a year ago and that early sales of winter getaways had been encouraging.

The group, which owns Thomson and First Choice, on Thursday said it now had fewer holidays left to sell than at this stage last year. It said year-on-year summer holiday sales were up 6 percent in Northern Europe, 5 percent higher in central Europe and 2 percent up in Western Europe.

"We remain on track to meet our full year expectations, with strong underlying trading offset by the impact of re-translation of fourth quarter Eurozone earnings," chief executive Peter Long said in a statement.

"Our continued outperformance in a challenging macroeconomic environment demonstrates our robust strategy is delivering clear results."

TUI Travel is expected to report an average pretax profit of 356.3 million pounds ($575.30 million) for the year to the end of September, according to a Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 16 analysts.

The FTSE 100 company said although it was relatively early in the booking cycle, winter 2012/13 sales had been encouraging since August with load factors in line with its expectations.

Winter holiday sales had been especially strong in northern and central Europe, it said.

The company said it was outperforming competitors in Britain, helping to offset weaker trading in France.

Shares in TUI Travel, which have risen 40 percent in the last three months, closed at 230.1 pence on Wednesday, valuing the group at around 2.6 billion pounds.