Peterborough’s Thomas Cook is back in the black after five years of losses

Thomas Cook, Coningsby Road, Bretton. ENGEMN00120141202145928
Thomas Cook, Coningsby Road, Bretton. ENGEMN00120141202145928
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Travel giant Thomas Cook has unveiled its first profits after tax in five years.

The Peterborough-based company went back into the black this year with profits after tax of £19 million.

That compared to a loss of £115 million last year.

Four years ago, the 174-year-old company, which employs 1,300 people in Peterborough, had to be bailed out by lenders to the tune of £1 billion.

The return to profit comes despite a year of turbulence in some of markets, including the Greek debt crisis and the terror attack in Tunisia, which hit earnings by £25 million.

The company’s full results for the year ending September 30, 2015, show that net debt fell by £187 million to £139 million.

Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook. ENGEMN00120121130150524

Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook. ENGEMN00120121130150524

The group plans to reinstate a dividend in 2017 after a seven-year pause.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “2015 has seen an unprecedented level of disruption .  I have never seen anything like it.

But he added: “2015 has been a year of real progress as good trading combined with rigorous cost control to deliver our first positive profit after tax in five years.

“Despite turbulence in some of our destinations, the underlying business performed in line with our plans at the start of the year, demonstrating its greater resilience.”

Thomas Cook, Coningsby Road, Bretton. ENGEMN00120141202145948

Thomas Cook, Coningsby Road, Bretton. ENGEMN00120141202145948

The firm was criticised earlier this month for its handling of the deaths Bobby and Christi Shepherd in Corfu nine years ago. Mr Fankhauser said: “We need to learn from the tragedy and do things differently. Last week, we launched the Safer Tourism Foundation with the children’s mother, Sharon Wood.

He added: “But we also recognise that change needs to come from within Thomas Cook, putting our customers first in everything that we do.

“That is why we have introduced customer satisfaction as a new internal measure of success and why we are rolling out a 24-hour hotel satisfaction promise for key hotels across the group.

“It is also why we are putting a renewed focus on the quality of our holiday offering and pushing hard to further develop our online and retail channels.

Mr Fankhauser said: “Customers have responded well to our increased focus on higher-quality hotels with our own-brand properties proving particularly popular, growing bookings by more than 40 per cent over the year.

“We have continued to build on this success with the launch of a new boutique concept, Casa Cook, with the first hotel set to open next spring in Rhodes.

“Looking across the Group, the UK continued to strengthen as a better quality holiday offering and other business improvements delivered a 42 per cent increase in underlying operating profit.

“Northern Europe and our German airlines business also performed well with underlying operating profits up 23 per cent and 19 per cent respectively.

“ Continental Europe, particularly Germany and France, were weaker due to more competitive trading conditions.

He added: “The new financial year has got off to a good start with encouraging trading overall for Winter 2015/16 and Summer 2016.

“With our business on a firmer financial footing, we have a clear strategy in place to deliver greater value for customers and sustainable growth for our shareholders.”