LONDON (Reuters) - Thomas Cook lost a third of its value on Tuesday after the holiday operator cut its profit guidance for the second time in two months and suspended its dividend, burned by the effects of a hot British summer and one-off charges.
The oldest travel company in the world, Thomas Cook has been hurt by the heatwave that gripped northern Europe this year, deterring holiday makers from booking lucrative last minute deals and sending its shares down 70 percent in 12 months.
On Tuesday it updated the market two days ahead of schedule to cut its underlying operating profit again, this time by 11 percent. It said it had not breached the terms of its lending agreements and would continue to invest in the business.
Shares in the company fell an initial 33 percent at the open. They were down 24 percent to 37 pence at 1015 GMT, giving it a market value of around 570 million pounds. Shares in rival TUI Group were down 3 percent.
“I’m not happy with the financial result,” Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser said. “This is not where we wanted to be.”
Thomas Cook makes all its profit in the summer when its customers in northern Europe, including Britain, Germany and Scandinavia seek the sun in southern European destinations such as Spain, Turkey and Greece.
However record temperatures in much of northern Europe this year meant the company was forced to warn in July and September that demand for holidays had been damaged.
It said on Tuesday it had also taken around 30 million pounds of charges to account for costs linked to changes to its business, flight disruptions and unpaid historic hotel bills.
Thomas Cook, which had rebuilt itself from a 2011 collapse when the euro zone debt crisis and political turmoil brought it to its knees, said it would push ahead with its strategy of opening its own hotels, which tend to drive higher returns and customer loyalty.
“Across the group, we will continue to streamline our cost base and manage our capacity to give us greater operational flexibility and financial discipline,” Fankhauser said.
The group said for the year to end September, its profit had fallen to 250 million pounds ($320 million), down 58 million pounds on the previous year and below the 280 million pounds it forecast in September.
For 2019 it said it expected to “deliver progress” on underlying operating profit. Analysts said this implied material downgrades to current consensus of 309 million pounds.
Winter bookings are down 3 percent on last year, with flat pricing. UK bookings are flat, albeit at lower margins.
“The UK was particularly hard hit with very high levels of promotional activity coming on top of an already competitive market for holidays to Spain,” the company said.
Thomas Cook said it was confident that its customers could travel without disruption at the end of March when Britain leaves the EU, but that it had seen signs of customers booking holidays during that period outside of the bloc. ($1 = 0.7823 pounds)
Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Louise Heavens/Keith Weir