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Thomson takes a trip into the black

Thomson Travel, the UK's leading travel operators and owners of the Lunn Poly travel agency chain, soared into the black in the first half of this year as British holidaymakers flocked overseas.

The business, part of the Canadian-controlled Thomson Corporation, also painted a rosy view of the outlook, saying demand for the high season months of July to September was strong.

Meanwhile, winter holiday sales were "substantially" above the level of this time last year and bookings for next summer were said to be encouraging, after brochures were issued three months early in May.

Thomson said the buoyancy of consumer disposable income and a strong pound were leading to "generally favourable" trading conditions.

The comments came as the group revealed that losses of $4m (pounds 2.5m) had turned into a profit of $17m in the normally quieter six months of the year to June. Sales leapt from $992m to $1.22bn. Net earnings of $33m for the whole group last time turned into a loss of $7m in the latest six months.

The sparkling figures will increase speculation that the travel business will soon be floated on the London stock market.

Separately, it was announced that Gordon Paul, who ran Thomson's UK regional newspaper group before it was sold in 1995, had resigned as head of its publishing arm.