The British arm of Cox & Kings, the world’s oldest travel company, has begun a quest to find new investors amid a funding crisis at its Indian namesake company.
Daily Week News has learnt that Cox & Kings UK has appointed corporate financiers from KPMG to identify buyers for a stake in the business, 261 years after it was founded.
City sources said on Thursday that the company was in discussions with several parties, including private equity firms, about a deal.
Cox & Kings specialises in luxury tours and holidays in destinations in Africa, Asia and Europe.
It employs about 80 people in the UK.
The search for new backers follows the emergence of financial troubles at Cox & Kings (India), which defaulted on loan repayments in June, prompting a downgrade by credit ratings agencies.
The Indian company was a large shareholder in Malvern Group, the owner of Super Break and LateRooms.com, which collapsed into administration in August.
Those assets have since been sold.
Thomas Cook: The Last Flight
Cox & Kings retains its stock exchange listing in India, although its shares hit an all-time low on Thursday, giving the company a market value of less than £3m.
The process to find new investors for Cox & Kings’ UK operations comes at a difficult time for long-established travel companies as they grapple with high fixed costs and the challenge from online rivals.
Thomas Cook’s collapse in September cost thousands of jobs and led to furious recriminations about the company’s management and the government’s refusal to sanction an emergency rescue plan.
While Thomas Cook, which was founded in 1941, could lay claim to being the world’s oldest tour operator, Cox & Kings’ roots go back significantly further.
According to the company, it was established in 1758 when Richard Cox, a regimental agent to the Foot Guards, became an agent for British forces regiments.
Henry Samuel King founded a bank and shipping agency in 1868, with the two companies merging after the First World War.
The current chairman of the British Cox & Kings business, Anthony Good, has been in his role for 44 years.
A spokesperson for Cox & Kings UK said: “Having successfully achieved an extension of its licence from the CAA, Cox & Kings UK is now actively seeking an investment partner with whom we can take the business forward.
“Advisors from KPMG have been appointed to assist us with this process.
“We are proud to have a strong brand here in the UK, something which has been reflected by the interest and enthusiasm we have seen from potential buyers so far.”