Thomas Cook joint venture deal with Russia's Intourist

Thomas Cook shop
Image caption Thomas Cook will have an option to take over the joint company

Thomas Cook is set to enter Russia's fast-growing tourist market, after the UK operator agreed to create a joint venture with Russia's Intourist.

Thomas Cook will take a 50.1% stake and pay $45m (£29m) in cash and shares.

Intourist was a monopolist in the Soviet travel market. It was privatised in the early 1990s.

Beach holidays in countries like Turkey and Egypt are in big demand among Russians, and Thomas Cook said it hoped to capitalise on this.

"The joint venture will include Intourist's outbound, domestic and inbound tour operating operations, as well as its retail travel network, and will focus on expansion in Russia and the other CIS countries," Thomas Cook said in a statement.

The deal does not include Intourist's hotels division.

Thomas Cook added: "Over six million Russians went on overseas, packaged holidays last year, and the market is expected to grow by a double-digit percentage in the coming years."

The UK company's shares rose following the news, up 1% in early afternoon trading in London.

Home and abroad

Intourist, which was restructured in 2005, has been owned by billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov's JSFC Sistema.

The firm sells both domestic and foreign holidays to Russian tourists.

Thomas Cook will have an option to purchase the remaining shares in the joint venture over the next five years.

"The joint venture is conditional upon anti-trust clearance in Russia and certain other conditions, and is expected to complete in or before February 2011," Thomas Cook said.

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