* FY pretax profit 380 mln stg vs forecast 363 mln
* Sees compound annual profit growth of 7-10 pct for 5 yrs
* 2013 UK summer bookings up 12 pct yr-on-yr
* Shares up 3 pct
By Rhys Jones
LONDON, Dec 4 TUI Travel, the world's
biggest tour operator, reported higher profits and bookings,
saying cash-strapped Europeans were increasingly turning to
fixed-price holidays to escape the economic gloom.
The British group, which owns the Thomson and First Choice
brands, said on Tuesday recession-weary consumers were willing
to loosen their purse strings for a get-away, but were looking
for all-inclusive deals where they don't have to worry about how
much they are spending.
"We're seeing a renaissance in demand for package holidays
and a strong trend towards all-inclusive holidays with customers
seeking greater certainty," TUI Travel's chief executive Peter
Long told reporters.
"People are spending more up front," he added.
Travel firms and airlines across Europe have seen bookings
fall over the last two years, hit by the euro zone debt crisis,
high fuel costs and turmoil in Greece, one of the continent's
main holiday destinations.
However, TUI Travel said its outlook was positive and
predicted it would achieve compound annual profit growth of 7 to
10 percent over the next five years.
The group said bookings for summer 2013 from the UK were up
12 percent on last year, with the Nordic countries up 16 percent
and Germany 9 percent stronger. It added that winter bookings
across Europe were around 3 percent higher on average.
It reported a better-than-expected 8 percent rise in
underlying pretax profit to 390 million pounds ($628 million)
for the year to the end of September, on revenue 2 percent lower
at 14.46 billion pounds.
The company was expected to report full-year pretax profit
of 363 million pounds, according to the average forecast in a
Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S poll of 16 analysts.
TUI Travel said it had a strong 2012 summer holiday season
after rain-soaked northern Europeans sought out the sun and kept
tight control on their budgets with its package deals.
Shares in TUI Travel, which have risen more than a quarter
in the last three months, were up 2.9 percent at 276.9 pence by
1030 GMT, valuing the business at around 3 billion pounds.
Peel Hunt analyst Nick Batram said he would likely upgrade
his profit forecasts for TUI Travel after the strong results but
highlighted a lack of growth at its more profitable specialist
holidays unit as a worry.
"The irony is that it is mainstream (holidays) driving
profits rather than the more specialist businesses ... whilst
earnings are moving forward the quality of those earning is
questionable," he said.
Bookings during the year were up across Britain, Germany and
the Nordic region, but fell 28 percent in France as the firm
reduced capacity in the country. France also suffered because of
a slower than expected recovery in North African markets, which
are popular among French travellers.
The company, which raised its full-year dividend by 4
percent to 11.7 pence per share, said profit had also been
boosted by a increase in selling prices of between 4 and 6
percent across European markets during the year
Rival UK travel firm Thomas Cook last week said it
had seen a strong finish to its fourth quarter as its recovery
plan cranked into gear, after a year in which operating profit