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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK

Business: The Company File

Thomson Travel boss quits

Thomson owns travel shops, airlines, and tour companies

The head of the UK's largest package holiday firm, Thomson Travel, has quit.

Paul Brett is resigning with immediate effect from the travel firm.

[ image: The number of package holidays is falling]
The number of package holidays is falling
He will be temporarily replaced by chief operating officer Roger Burnell, while the company looks for a permanent replacement.

The board of Thomson's said that the move was "mutually agreed", saying it was "timely to introduce new leadership".

The surprise move comes as the group warned that profits would be hit by the effects of the conflict in Kosovo.

Profits down

Thomson said that results for the first half of 1999, due to be announced in September, would show increased losses.

This spring it was forced to heavily discount holidays to the Western Mediterranean after holidaymakers grew concerned about the Kosovo war and terrorism in Turkey.

The group's profits were also hit by the cost of expanding its charter airline, which flies under the Britannia name.

Thomson warned that the market for late holiday sales was proving difficult, and the returns for the summer holiday season were still uncertain.

In particular, 15% of its UK holidays were still unsold.

Thomson, like most holiday companies, makes its profit during the second half of the year, which includes the peak summer period.

The company added that it was reviewing capacity for the 2000 season.

Rivals move ahead

Thomson's share price dropped sharply on the London Stock Exchange on Monday on the news. Its shares were down 8%, of 11.5p, to 132p in early trading.

Since the company was floated on the stock market, its shares have fallen compared to those of its rivals Airtours and First Choice.

Airtours is still bidding to acquire First Choice, following the completion of an investigation by the EU Competition Commissioner.

If successful, it would overtake Thomson as the UK's largest travel operator.

Earlier in the year, chief executive Paul Brett upset many shareholders in the City by threatening a price war with Airtours if their takeover was successful - which would have further reduced profits.

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