With pressure on household incomes, many have had to forego spending on luxuries and travel is seen by many as just that – a luxury they can no longer afford. Add on to this some unexpected external shocks and it’s unsurprising to see a company such as Thomas Cook, the second largest holiday business in the world, in talks with banks. It provides some 19 million holidays per year, but has seen a relatively rapid deterioration in its finances.
Its debts total in September 2011 was some £900 million and the value of the company has declined significantly in recent times. However, the most notable decline has been since it emerged that Thomas Cook was in talks with its banks in preparation for tougher times to come. It is hoping to receive £100 million from a range of banks including HSBC and Lloyds, but on this news Thomas Cook share prices fell by some 75%. However, Thomas Cook has said that the company is simply requesting money as a cushion and that it is not in a desperate financial situation. As the Acting Chief Executive, Sam Weihagen said, ‘I think investors should have confidence in Thomas Cook’.
Many factors have contributed towards Thomas Cook’s current situation – volcanic ash clouds, political unrest and unkind weather, but also some internal strategic decisions, such as their continued focus on package holidays, despite the fact that data suggests 2 in 3 people that go to Spain (a popular package destination) are actually not on a typical package holiday. The key thing with travel is that it is very much based on confidence (as we have also seen with the banking sector). If confidence in a company declines, people stop booking holidays with them and so further financial issues are created. This issue is even more significant when a well known brand name, such as Thomas Cook is the company in trouble. Nothing else makes such great headlines as a well known brand in trouble. So, should holiday makers be concerned? The following articles consider the situation that Thomas Cook faces.
Thomas Cook makes it hard to see the funny side Telegraph, Alistair Osborne (22/11/11)
Thomas Cook dives on bank talks BBC News (22/11/11)
How Thomas Cook shares dive 75% on new of bank talks BBC News (22/11/11)
Thomas Cook reassures holiday makers after shares plunge Guardian, Simon Bowers and Patrick Collinson (22/11/11)
Thomas Cook risks customer exodus during bank talks after stock plunges Bloomberg, Armorel Kenna and David Altaner (23/11/11)
Fears for Thomas Cook after shares sink 75% Independent, James Thompson (23/11/11)
Thomas Cook shares crash after default warning Reuters, Matt Scuffham (22/11/11)
- Explain the reason why share prices have fallen for Thomas Cook. Use a diagram showing the demand and supply of shares to support your explanation.
- Distinguish between the internal and external factors that have contributed to Thomas Cook’s current position.
- Under which aspect of PEST and STEEPLE analysis would you place the above influences?
- In the Telegraph article, an industry source says: ‘In a business like this you need a very conservative capital structure because you don’t know what’s going to come and bite you.’ What is meant by ‘a very conservative capital structure’?
- What action can Thomas Cook take to try to improve its current financial position? Think about both costs and revenues.
- What type of good would you class a holiday as? Based on this, what sort of figure would you place on the income elasticity of demand for holidays?
- How likely do you think it is that other travel companies are also experiencing similar financial issues to Thomas Cook?