Belfast Telegraph

Travel firm tie-up gets watchdog approval

By Graeme Evans and Margaret Canning

Plans by Thomas Cook and Co-op to merge their high street travel firms have been backed by the competition watchdog.

At least 200 staff across 44 branches of both companies in Northern Ireland could be affected by the proposed merger.

The tie-up involves two of the three largest high street travel agents, but in provisional findings the Competition Commission said it did not expect the deal to have a major impact on package holiday customers.

Co-op confirmed it has 21 branches in the province employing 118 people. Thomas Cook owns 23 stores employing an estimated 130 people.

It is expected that the merger will also lead to job losses and store closures after Thomas Cook promised savings of around £35m a year.

Thomas Cook, which will own 70% of the new company, is struggling with a drop in demand for overseas holidays, as anxious Britons opt to stay at home.