C&N set to announce takeover

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The Independent Online

C&N Touristic, the German tour operator that lost out to its German rival Preussag in the £1.8bn battle for Thomson Travel, is set to announce the takeover of Thomas Cook's holiday division.

C&N Touristic, the German tour operator that lost out to its German rival Preussag in the £1.8bn battle for Thomson Travel, is set to announce the takeover of Thomas Cook's holiday division.

Industry insiders say an announcement of C&N's purchase of Thomas Cook, which is majority-owned by Preussag, is expected "within weeks".

C&N is in the final stage of negotiations with Carlson Companies, the US hospitality group that holds 22 per cent of Cook and which has the first option to take full control of the UK firm following Preussag's acquisition of Thomson. Preussag is being forced to sell its stake in Thomas Cook for competition reasons. One source said: "The talks [between Carlson and C&N] are really hot now. It's going to happen."

If the deal goes ahead, Carlson will exercise its option to acquire Preussag's 50.1 per cent holding as well as the 27.9 per cent that is owned by WestLB Panmure, the German bank. It will then sell all, or the majority part, of the Thomas Cook travel agency business to C&N for an estimated £700m to £800m.

The UK group's financial services business, which provides customers with foreign exchange and travellers' cheques, is being auctioned off separately. It is widely expected to be bought for around £400m by American Express.

If C&N is successful in gaining control of the country's third-biggest tour operator, all eyes in the travel sector will turn to Airtours and First Choice to see how they will respond.

Airtours recently overtook Thomson as the UK's top-ranked holiday company but has suffered a string of setbacks in recent months as its performance has been dragged down by losses at its German subsidiary Frosch Touristik.

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