May 3, 2019 / 2:54 PM / 19 days ago

Thomas Cook in talks with lenders about strengthening finances

LONDON (Reuters) - Heavily indebted British travel company Thomas Cook said on Friday it was in talks with its lenders about bolstering its finances, following recent media speculation about the firm’s ability to pay its debts.

The Thomas Cook logo is seen in this illustration photo January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration

The firm, which put its profitable airline business up for sale in February, has endured a tumultuous few days on markets, with its shares closing down 15 percent on Thursday.

“We have (...) taken the proactive step to approach our financing partners and are engaged in constructive discussions to ensure we have the flexibility and resources to continue investing behind our plans over the long-term,” chief executive Peter Fankhauser said.

Thomas Cook declined to comment on a Bloomberg report on Thursday that three of its lenders accepted steep losses to exit a loan facility to the company.

Sky News reported on Friday it was in advanced talks for about 400 million pounds of new loans.

The world’s oldest travel company struggled in 2018 when a heatwave in northern Europe deterred holiday makers, leading to two major profit warnings.

The company said its liquidity position was strengthening heading into this year’s key summer period but it was acting proactively to ensure it had financial flexibility to maintain an “appropriate liquidity buffer through the (2019/2020) winter”.

Thomas Cook shares were down 0.8 percent on Friday.

The yield on Thomas Cook euro-denominated bonds that mature in 2022 hit a record high of 29.896 percent earlier on Friday, while the bond’s price fell to a record low of 57.701 cents. The bond’s price ticked up from those lows in afternoon trade.

The cost of insuring debt issued by Thomas Cook against default also climbed on Friday.

The company’s five-year credit default swap, reflecting the cost of protecting against a default on its debt, jumped 349 basis points from Thursday’s close to 2199 basis points, IHS Markit data showed.

The CDS price implied a 78 percent probability of default, according to the data provider.

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Thomas Cook has set a deadline of May 7 for expressions of interest in its airline business. Indigo Partners and Lufthansa are seen as likely bidders, sources said.

Reporting by Alistair Smout, additional reporting by Helen Reid, editing by Paul Sandle and Elaine Hardcastle

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