Airbreak chiefs quit as losses push pounds 3m

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THE chairman and finance director of Airbreak, the tour operator, resigned yesterday after the company reported a pounds 2.9m loss for the first half compared with a pounds 1.6m profit for the whole of last year.

Airbreak has been a victim of recession and a price war in the industry that has already claimed at least four travel companies since July, but a decision by two banks to call in loans early did not help.

Last night Airbreak moved to dampen concern about its future, saying it was about to secure the sale of a division that would bolster the company's finances.

An announcement about the temporary successor to David Lewis, the chairman and joint managing director for four years, is expected today. Both his replacement, and that of Martin Linton, the finance director, are expected to come from outside the company, which came to the Unlisted Securities Market last year.

The firm agreed with the Stock Exchange that its interim results could be posted after the markets closed last night. Shares closed 1.5p down at 24p.

No one from the company was prepared to comment, but in a statement Airbreak said it hit problems after the purchase of Sunsail, a yacht charter company, in January. Airbreak uncovered 'unexpected problems' at Sunsail and received demands for early repayment of overdrafts from its banks, one of which is believed to be Lloyds. There was also a serious decline in the charter market from July, and Airbreak cut 65,000 seats.

Graham Lewinstein, of Airbreak's broker, Williams de Broe, said Sunsail was about to be sold to a 'well-known' name in a deal that would guarantee the tour company's future. Airbreak bought Sunsail for pounds 8m in shares but only pounds 2.8m have so far been issued.

Last week saw three travel companies cease trading - Flight Seekers, Holimarine and Pennant Boats. Land Travel collapsed in July.