Airtours dismisses threat of terrorism: Expected first-half loss of pounds 17.6m includes costs of failed bid for Owners Abroad

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The Independent Online
AIRTOURS, the holiday operator, yesterday dismissed the threat of terrorism to its business, claiming the effect on profits was minimal. The company said it had offered a change of destination to 4,000 customers due to travel to Turkey this month. Fewer than 1 per cent altered their plans.

As is usual for tour operators, Airtours lost money in its first half, recording a loss before tax of pounds 17.6m to March against pounds 15.9m last time. However, the comparable figures included pounds 9m costs incurred during Airtours' failed bid for Owners Abroad.

David Crossland, chairman, said: 'The increased losses are attributable to the enlarged scale of the business in the traditionally unprofitable winter months.'

Last June it paid pounds 20m for Aspro, a low-budget agent, and pounds 24m for Hogg Robinson. It merged Hogg Robinson with its existing Pickfords travel agency and rebranded the 550-outlet chain under the Going Places banner. Airtours said Going Places won 13 per cent of all holiday bookings in the half-year, compared with 11.4 per cent. Total bookings for this summer rose by 41 per cent.

Airtours spent pounds 74m on the holiday business attached to SAS, the Scandinavian airline, and pounds 16m on a cruise ship.

The purchases were funded by an pounds 82m rights issue in May. The rights price of 390p compares with yesterday's close of 473p, down 15p.

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