LONDON May 13 TUI Travel, Europe's biggest tour operator by revenues, reported a better than expected first-half loss despite Easter falling outside the period this year, and said it was on track to meet its profit growth targets.
The British group, which owns the Thomson and First Choice holiday brands, on Tuesday posted an operating loss of 298 million pounds ($502.8 million) in the six months to end-March compared to the 289 million it lost in the same period last year.
"Overall, we are pleased with Summer 2014 trading, against strong comparatives, and we remain confident of delivering 7 percent to 10 percent growth in underlying operating profit during the year on a constant currency basis," the company said on Tuesday.
Like most tour operators and airlines, TUI generally reports a loss in the traditionally weaker first part of the year and makes the bulk of its profits in the summer months when its European customer base tends to take more holidays.
This year the lucrative Easter holiday period fell in April. Last year it was in March, helping the company's first half results in 2013.
TUI's first-half loss compares to forecasts of a loss of 305 million pounds from Morgan Stanley analysts, whose estimate included the impact of Easter at 25 million pounds, and a loss of 315 million pounds from Deutsche Bank analysts, who estimated Easter at 20 to 25 million pounds.
TUI is 55 percent owned by German travel and tourism group TUI AG and has its biggest customer markets in Britain and Germany. Rival operator Thomas Cook is due to report first-half results on Thursday. ($1 = 0.5927 British Pounds) (Reporting by Paul Sandle, Editing by Sarah Young)