UPDATE 2-TUI AG CEO shakes up group in drive for dividend

Wed May 15, 2013 4:05am EDT

* Cuts costs at TUI AG headquarters in Hanover

* Underperforming hotels, cruises to be restructured

* Sees underlying EBITA of around 1 bln eur by 2014/15

* Says will pay out 50 pct of net cash flow

* Shares rise 2.8 pct

By Victoria Bryan

FRANKFURT, May 15 (Reuters) - German tourism group TUI AG's new chief is cutting costs, restructuring loss-making resorts and cruise operations, and will boost cooperation with unit TUI Travel in a shake-up aimed at resuming dividend payments in 2014/15.

The plan, while called oneTUI and intended to cut overlaps between the two, does not mean another attempt at a merger with TUI Travel, Chief Executive Friedrich Joussen said on Wednesday.

"OneTUI is designed to get more out of the existing structure of the group. It's not an M&A programme," he told journalists.

The structure of TUI AG and 56-percent owned unit TUI Travel, which includes one headquarter in London and one in Hanover, is complicated and costly. TUI Travel's tour operators include brands such as Thomson and Crystal Ski, while TUI AG operates its own cruises and is Europe's leading operator of leisure hotels.

Analysts and investors have suggested a merger would be the best way of reducing overlap, but TUI AG decided against making an offer for the remainder of TUI Travel earlier this year, saying it made no sense at current share prices. ID:nL6N0AS1SJ]

Instead, Joussen, CEO for 100 days, said TUI AG would cut costs by 40 percent at its headquarters in Hanover, restructure or sell underperforming resorts, such as the Castelfalfi in Toscana, fix problems at loss-making Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and increase cooperation with TUI Travel.

"We will be ruthless and divest if things are not working," Joussen told analysts.

Measures agreed with TUI Travel's CEO Peter Long include increasing use of the TUI brand across hotel assets, working more closely on online strategy and setting up a joint staff talent programme, Joussen said.

DIVIDEND

Shares in TUI AG rose 2.4 percent to the top of the MDax index for mid-caps in Germany on news of the reshuffle and dividend policy. TUI Travel was up 2 pct.

TUI AG has not offered a dividend since a 2007 payout of 0.25 euros, although previous CEO Michael Frenzel had back in 2011 indicated a payout could be on the way soon.

Joussen said the group was targeting operating profit of around 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) by the 2014/15 financial year and a cash balance, currently negative, of around 100 million.

The group then intends to pay out half of its net cash flow as dividends, Joussen said.

Separately, the group posted a second quarter underlying loss before interest, tax and amortisation (EBITA) of 197 million euros, matching expectations in a Reuters poll.

It lifted its forecast for the year, saying it now expected underlying EBITA to improve from the record 745.7 million euros in 2011/2012, after a strong performance from TUI Travel.

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