Air traffic

Thomas Cook liquidators plot to sell stake in air traffic control | Economic news

The liquidators of the Thomas Cook travel empire, which has grown into one of Britain’s best-known companies in its 178-year history, have launched a bid to get rid of its stake in the company behind the operations UK air traffic control.

Sky News has learned that AlixPartners, the professional services firm, launched a process shortly before Christmas to sell Thomas Cook’s 1.17pc stake in The Airline Group, which owns a 42pc stake in National Air Traffic Services. (NATS).

A sale of the bankrupt company’s stake is unlikely to earn more than £ 15million, industry watchers say, given NATS’s overall valuation and small shareholder size.

The timing of the liquidators’ efforts to offload the remaining Thomas Cook stake is also important, given the continuing impact of the pandemic on activity levels in the aviation industry.

Thomas Cook collapsed in September 2019 after months of increasingly frantic talks to raise sufficient funds to keep it afloat ended in failure.

The liquidation of the company sparked a huge repatriation effort led by the government and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Along with Virgin Atlantic Airways, Lufthansa and TUI, Thomas Cook sold part of its stake in The Airline Group to the Universities Superannuation Scheme in 2013.

NATS staff and Heathrow Airport are the other private sector shareholders of the air traffic control operator.

The government continues to hold a 49% stake and one preferred share that allows it to veto any other change in ownership or operation.

NATS and AlixPartners declined to comment.