THE LEX COLUMN: Travel group Thomas Cook is in survival mode
Misguided focus blinded the group to growing digital competition
Travel can narrow the mind. Misguided focus is the reason Thomas Cook may lose its independence. The UK company pioneered mass tourism in the 1800s, then led Brits into the era of cheap Mediterranean package holidays in the sunburnt '60s. Sticking with that formula in the noughties — and doubling down on bricks-and mortar travel agencies — blinded the group to growing digital competition. As a result, current management has a narrow focus too: survival. Chinese investment group Fosun is now interested in buying Thomas Cook. That would be a relief to investors, who have seen shares fall 91% over a decade. The business staved off collapse in 2011. Now, as then, its problem is hefty net debts. These hit a seasonal peak of £1.6bn last quarter. The equity is worth only £375m. Under Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook has struggled to catch up with Germany-based rival Tui, a nimbler legacy business. British politicians and press may be less welcoming to Fosun than investors. Some of that hostil...