Ah, the holiday season. Dreams of surf, sea, sand – and soggy share prices, or so it must seem to the bewildered shareholders in Thomas Cook. The travel agent’s “amendment to bank facilities” on 21 October lasted just 38 days before the business fell into the arms of its 17 banks, who put up £200 million in emergency funding to tide it over until the summer.

This week we learned the full horrors of why the money was so desperately needed. Exceptional charges totalled £573 million. The balance sheet is shot. The Cooks were keen to emphasise that £428 million was non-cash writedowns, but that’s just another way of admitting that past acquisitions and investments were a waste of money.

The (interim) chief executive promises a turnaround plan, following an assault on the thesaurus. “The plan is intended to optimise the UK airline, refocus product strategy, improve yield management, rationalise distribution and improve operational efficiency.” Well, let’s hope so. At 15.9p, the market value of this £10 billion-turnover business is just £130 million, and Panmure expect debt to reach £3.5 billion at the seasonal peak. No wonder the brokers reckon the shares are worth just 10p of option money.

Thomas Cook remains one of the best names in the business, and it’s unlikely that many readers of The Sun will have worried about the details of refinancing. The Brits will still want their Sangria on Sea when they can next afford it, since increasing affluence leads to more travel. Unfortunately, increasing affluence could be a decade away. By then, the travel agency business may have been reduced to a mobile app – everywhere in the world you’ve planned to go, your phone will tell you what to do next, and who’s expecting you. Not much margin there for the intermediary.

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