Thomas Cook: 661 jobs at risk as travel group axes 200 stores

TROUBLED travel group Thomas Cook today confirmed plans to close 200 loss-making stores by the end of 2013 as part of a turnaround strategy for its UK business.

The figure includes 75 closures already announced as a result of its merger with the Co-operative Group’s travel business, with a further 125 branches also now to be axed.

It is understood that staff at 115 of the stores affected will be informed today, with a total of 661 jobs likely to go, with the rest of the closures to be announced over the next two years.

No details of the stores identified for closure were immediately available. Thomas Cook currently has a total of 10 branches in Suffolk and eight in north and mid Essex.

News of the closures came as Thomas Cook announced a �398million pre-tax loss for the year to September 30, against a �42m profit the previous year.

The result includes a write-down in the value of the group’s businesses in UK and Canada, with UK trading also suffering badly as a result of the Arab Spring protests which hit the number of tourists booking for normally popular destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt.

Publication of the results was delayed last month as Thomas Cook was forced to approach its lenders for an additional �100m of funding, in addition to a similar sum already agreed, prompting its shares to fall in value by 75% in a single day.

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Thomas Cook said today that the first quarter of its current year had got off to a slow start, with the news of its financial issues having an adverse impact on bookings in the UK.

However, the company insisted that it was now on a sounder financial footing and said it had been encouraged by the reponse to a recent promotion for holidays next summer.