Britain’s Thomas Cook scrambles for $250m to avert collapse

Lenders are demanding another £200 million in underwritten funds to support Thomas Cook in its winter trading period. (Reuters)
Updated 20 September 2019

Britain’s Thomas Cook scrambles for $250m to avert collapse

  • Thomas Cook employs 21,000 people across 16 countries
  • Lenders are demanding another £200 million in underwritten funds to support Thomas Cook in its winter trading period

LONDON: Britain’s Thomas Cook scrambled on Friday to find an extra $251 million (£200 million) to satisfy its lenders and secure the survival of the world’s oldest holiday company.
Last month Thomas Cook, the pioneer of the package tour, agreed key terms of a £900 million recapitalization plan with Chinese shareholder Fosun and its banks.
Thomas Cook, which employs 21,000 people across 16 countries, warned on Friday that this could mean shareholders losing all of their investment.
“The recapitalization is expected to result in existing shareholders’ interests being significantly diluted, with significant risk of no recovery,” Thomas Cook said.
Lenders are demanding another £200 million in underwritten funds to support Thomas Cook in its winter trading period, when its cash is usually at a low ebb.
“Discussions to agree final terms on the recapitalization and reorganization of the company are continuing between the company and a range of stakeholders,” Thomas Cook said.
“These discussions include a recent request for a seasonal standby facility of £200 million, on top of the previously announced 900 million pounds injection of new capital.”
Thomas Cook, which has around 600,000 customers on holiday in Europe, has struggled with competition in popular destinations, high debt levels and an unusually hot summer in 2018 which reduced last-minute bookings.
A source close to the discussions said on Thursday that Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had hit Thomas Cook with a last-minute demand for the extra funding, adding that the situation “was becoming more critical.”
A spokesman for RBS said the bank did not “recognize this characterization of events” and was working with all parties to “try and find a resolution to the funding and liquidity shortfall at Thomas Cook.”
Under the original terms of the plan, Fosun — whose Chinese parent owns all-inclusive holiday firm Club Med — would contribute £450 million ($552 million) of new money in return for at least 75 percent of the tour operator business and 25 percent of the group’s airline.
Thomas Cook’s lending banks and bondholders were to stump up a further £450 million and convert their existing debt to equity, giving them in total about 75 percent of the airline and up to 25 percent in the tour operator business, the group said.
Thomas Cook said on Friday it would provide further updates “in due course.”


Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

  • Experts say deal will usher in more economic and development opportunities for the country

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia’s energy giant, ACWA power, will set up an LNG-based 3,600 MW plant in Bangladesh after an agreement was signed in Dhaka on Thursday.

The MoU was signed by ACWA Chairman Mohammed Abunayyan and officials from the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), officials told Arab News on Monday.

According to the agreement, ACWA will invest $3 billion in Bangladesh’s energy development sector, of which $2.5 billion will be used to build the power plant while the rest will be spent on an LNG terminal to facilitate fuel supply to the plant. Under the deal, ACWA will also set up a 2 MW solar power plant.

In recent months, both countries have engaged in a series of discussions for investment opportunities in Bangladesh’s industry and energy sectors. 

During the Saudi-Bangladesh investment cooperation meeting in March this year, Dhaka proposed a $35 billion investment plan to a high-powered Saudi delegation led by Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, the Saudi commerce and investment minister, and Mohammed bin Mezyed Al-Tuwaijri, the Saudi economy and planning minister.

However, officials in Dhaka said that this was the first investment deal to be signed between the two countries.

“We have just inked the MoU for building the LNG-based power plant. Now, ACWA will conduct a feasibility study regarding the location of the plant, which is expected to be completed in the next six months,” Khaled Mahmood, chairman of BPDB, told Arab News.

He added that there are several locations in Moheshkhali, Chottogram and the Mongla port area for the proposed power plant.

“We need to find a suitable location where the drift of the river will be suitable for establishing the LNG plant and we need to also consider the suitability of establishing the transmission lines,” Mahmood said.

“It will be either a JV (Joint Venture) or an IPP (Independent Power Producer) mode of investment, which is yet to be determined. But, we are expecting that in next year the investment will start coming here,” Mahmood said.

BPDB expects to complete the set-up process of the power plant within 36 to 42 months.

“We are in close contact with ACWA and focusing on the successful completion of the project within the shortest possible time,” he said.

Abunayyan said that he was optimistic about the new investment deal.

“Bangladesh has been a model for the Muslim world in economic progress. This is our beginning, and our journey and our relationship will last for a long time,” Abunayyan told a gathering after the MoU signing ceremony.

Economists and experts in Bangladesh also welcomed the ACWA investment in the energy development sector.

“This sort of huge and long-term capital investment will create a lot of employment opportunities. On the other hand, it will facilitate other trade negotiations with the Middle Eastern countries, too,” Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told Arab News.

She added that Bangladesh needs to weigh the pros and cons before finalizing such contracts so that the country can earn the “maximum benefits” from the investment.

“It will also expedite other big investments in Bangladesh from different countries,” she said.

Another energy economist, Dr. Asadujjaman, said that Bangladesh needs to exercise caution while conducting the feasibility study for such a huge investment.

“We need to address the environmental aspects, opportunity costs and other economic perspectives while working with this type of big investment. Considering the present situation, the country also needs to focus on producing more solar energy,” Dr. Asadujjaman told Arab News.