Thomas Cook says to keep troubled French travel unit

Travel firm Thomas Cook on Monday said it had decided against selling its French unit following a review of the loss-making division, adding that it would implement changes aimed at making it profitable.

"We have now concluded the review of Thomas Cook's French business and following this process we have taken the decision to retain the business within the group and implement a specific transformation programme for France to improve performance," the British company said in a statement.

"This is a positive move forward for our customers and employees in France as we implement our plans to return the business to profitability under the leadership of our senior French team, working closely with Reto Wilhelm, a skilled and experienced European travel executive," added Peter Fankhauser, chief executive of Thomas Cook's UK & Continental Europe division.

Thomas Cook said the French business would come under the direct responsibility of Wilhelm from April.

The firm had in November announced its plans for a review after Thomas Cook posted group annual losses of almost £586 million ($882 million, 678 million euros).

In recent times, Thomas Cook has been battered by the weak global economy, recession in Britain, restructuring charges, high fuel costs, and unrest in the Middle East and north Africa region, which has been popular with French tourists.

Thomas Cook's French unit comprises 560 branches and 100 Jet Tours shops.