Thomas Cook faces a merger with Rewe, its German rival, after the collapse of the UK travel operator’s biggest shareholder yesterday.

Arcandor, the German retail group that owns 53 per cent of Thomas Cook, filed for insolvency after the German government ended weeks of speculation by refusing it state aid.

The development, one of Europe’s biggest corporate failures outside the banking sector during the financial crisis, puts Britain’s second-biggest travel agency up for grabs.

Shares in Thomas Cook rose by 10% after Rewe, which runs food and travel businesses, said it would look at Arcandor’s stake if it came on to the market. Arcandor had pledged shares in Thomas Cook to guar antee loans by Royal Bank of Scotland, Commerzbank, Bayerische Landesbank and others.

Financial Times