Published on Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Financial press warms to Thomas Cook chief

Thomas Cook's new chief executive Harriet Green appears to be winning over the financial press after making her mark on the tour operator.

Green, who joined the troubled company in May and who could receive a pay package worth almost £3 million in her first year, was featured in a positive light in several articles over the New Year.

The Times named Thomas Cook in its 10 shares to follow this year thanks to Green's recovery programme.

It said Thomas Cook was a "straight punt" after going through a "near-death experience".

In a separate article it praised Green for her achievements so far, despite her "surprise" appointment.

"She had no experience in the travel or leisure industries, having spent most of her working life in electronics. But she has already made her mark," said the article.

"Several senior executives have departed and in her first results briefing to the City late last month she indicated that more job cuts were likely, having identified £100 million of annual cost savings in her first 17 weeks in the job.

"It is a moot point whether Harriet Green would attract epithets such as "feisty" and "combative" were she just another grey man in a grey suit. Instead, she is a diminutive mother of two grown-up children with a fondness for yoga and black clothing.

"She sets great store in having a good work-life balance, again not often a stated priority for the average grey-suited male executive."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph said Thomas Cook was over the worse after its "annus horribilis".

"The past 12 months have seen the company slump to a £485.3m loss, lay off 1,250 staff, agree a £1.4bn financing package on pretty punishing terms and part with a number of assets," it said.

"While 2013 is unlikely to be an "annus mirabilis", there is recognition that the tour operator is now over the worst and some parts of the City believe Thomas Cook represents a buying opportunity.

"Green has identified £100m of costs that can be stripped out and more savings are expected early next year, potentially in the form of job cuts, shop closures and a further downsizing of the aircraft fleet. Debt, at £788m, is too high and it is expected Thomas Cook will have to raise £300m to £400m to ease its balance sheet.

"However, even after an equity-raising, analysts believe the shares, which have added 31p over the past 12 months, have potential. Credit Suisse estimates that post a £300m rights issue, Thomas Cook would trade on a multiple of 4.9 times."

The Daily Mail said Green hasherself showed her commitment to the operator by acquiring 500,000 shares at 23p each.

"Other directors piled in too and have so far more-than-doubled their money," it said.

"Chairman Frank Meysman bought 100,000 shares at 24.6p and Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of UK & Continental Europe, 170,000 at 23.25p."

A spokesman for Thomas Cook said it was "nice to see this critical community changing their view on us!".


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