London (AFP)

The troubled British tour operator Thomas Cook has started a race against time to quickly find additional funding to complete its restructuring and avoid a resounding bankruptcy ... And a massive repatriation of tourists.

The group was forced to recognize Friday in a brief statement needing 200 million pounds more after recent alarmist press reports on his health and evoking the risk of filing for bankruptcy this weekend.

The addition to avoid this specialist turnkey trips to sink now climbs to more than 1 billion pounds (1.13 billion euros).

Thomas Cook is trying to finalize its restructuring plan after finding an agreement to hand over control of its tour operator business and part of its airline to Chinese Fosun.

"Discussions on the final terms of the recapitalization and reorganization of the group continue with many players, including its largest shareholder Fosun", as well as its banks and creditors, said Thomas Cook.

But the tour operator warns that the talks "include a recent request for a 200 million-pound line of credit."

This amount is in addition to the 900 million pounds to be injected into the group during its restructuring.

- Repatriation monster? -

If the group fails to secure the additional funds, it is likely to bankrupt quickly, which could leave 150,000 British tourists with repatriation costs of 600 million pounds for the authorities, according to the BBC. Thomas Cook also employs 22,000 people worldwide, including 9,000 in the UK.

This would be the most spectacular repatriation operation for the United Kingdom since the collapse of the Monarch airline in October 2017 when the government had organized a disaster for the return of 110,000 passengers.

The British pilots' union Balpa, meanwhile, pointed to the responsibility of the banks RBS and LLoyds which he said demanded additional funding of 200 million pounds.

"It is appalling that these banks that were saved by the taxpayer (during the crisis of 2008, ed) do not show any loyalty to a big British company, Thomas Cook, when it needs help," said his secretary general Brian Strutton.

Asked about the precarious situation of the group, the bank RBS, via a spokesperson, said "continue to work with all parties to try to find a solution regarding the financing and liquidity needs of Thomas Cook".

The British Ministry of Transport has refused to "speculate on the financial situation of a company".

- The depressed stock market -

Thomas Cook hopes to carry out his restructuring plan which provides that Fosun, until now the main shareholder of the British tour operator with 17% of the capital and owner of Club Med, pays him 450 million pounds of fresh money, which must allow it to acquire 75% of the central tour operator activity, as well as 25% of its airline.

The creditors of Thomas Cook, including its banks, pledge to also contribute 450 million pounds and convert their debt to buy 75% of the airline and 25% of the activity of tour operator.

Thomas Cook, whose net debt amounted to some 1.2 billion pounds, hopes to complete the operation in early October but still has to get a series of green lights, including regulatory authorities.

The group said Friday that current shareholders could cash in large losses once the recapitalization, at the risk of even losing their stake.

This prospect, as well as the risk of bankruptcy, caused a further collapse of Thomas Cook's share price which plummeted 22.89% to 3.45pence around 10:00 GMT on the London Stock Exchange.

The 178-year-old tour operator is experiencing persistent financial difficulties due to competition from other tour operators and an uncertain economic environment, particularly in the UK where Brexit uncertainties are keeping tourists cautious.

© 2019 AFP