Thomas Cook says turnaround plans on track

LONDON Thu Feb 7, 2013 7:56am GMT

A worker changes the window display of Thomas Cook in Loughborough, central England December 14, 2011. REUTERS/Darren Staples

A worker changes the window display of Thomas Cook in Loughborough, central England December 14, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

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LONDON (Reuters) - British travel group Thomas Cook (TCG.L) on Thursday reported reduced first quarter operating losses and said its turnaround plan was on track.

The world's oldest travel group reported an operating loss of 69.8 million pounds in the three months to the end of December, 23 percent down on the 91.1 million pounds loss it reported in the same period a year earlier.

It said gross margin stood at 21.9 percent during the quarter, 1.3 percentage points up on the first quarter of 2011/12.

The 172-year-old group has struggled over the last two years with a slump in sales leading to a string of profit warnings, forcing it to renegotiate bank loans and make disposals to cut debt.

Since travel industry outsider Harriet Green took over as CEO last May, the company has seen a steady improvement in its finances following a series of disposals to slash its debt, including the sale of its Indian business and several Spanish hotels.

The company said it had reduced debt by 86 million pounds to 1.56 billion pounds over the last year, while it expected to cut costs by a further 60 million pounds this year.

It added that winter and summer bookings were in-line with its expectations.

"We have seen stronger operating performances in our major markets - the UK, Germany and the Nordics," Green said. "Although global economic conditions and consumer confidence remain challenged, our business transformation is firmly on track."

Rival TUI Travel (TT.L) on Thursday said it expects to deliver full-year profit at the top end of its guidance, despite the weakness of the euro last year contributing to a wider operating loss in its financial first quarter.

(Reporting by Rhys Jones; Editing by Neil Maidment)

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