Panel gives First Choice 21 days

THE TAKEOVER Panel will give First Choice Holidays 21 days to convince its shareholders of the merits of its proposed merger with Kuoni if Airtours allows its pounds 852m hostile bid for the company to lapse, rather than the five days implied by the original timetable.

The news came as First Choice unveiled buoyant trading figures with its half-year results. First Choice's losses increased from pounds 17.8m to pounds 20.6m in the traditionally loss-making first half, but summer bookings are 3 per cent ahead of last year, with winter 1999/2000 bookings up by 28 per cent.