Tui AG shareholder John Fredriksen is not seeking a full-blown merger of the European tour operator and its UK-based subsidiary Tui Travel, but does want to bring their tourism operations together, his business partner has said.

The comment from Tor Olav Trøim – one of Mr Fredriksen’s closest associates – follows the Norwegian shipowner’s latest manoeuvre to build his stake in Tui AG.

Mr Fredriksen disposed of his 5.4 per cent stake in the London-listed Tui Travel through his Monteray Enterprises entity, selling at 366p a share, and used the proceeds to take his Tui AG holding above 20 per cent.

At that level, his holding is close to the size of the stake owned by Severstal chief executive Alexei Mordashov, who has around 25 per cent.

Mr Trøim said his business partner had a “very good dialogue” with Tui AG and was looking to have “as much influence as possible” on strategy.

He added that Mr Fredriksen’s principal aim was to put the tourism operations of the two companies into one – and among the methods of achieving that were a merger or a sale of assets.

However, Mr Trøim said Monteray was not advocating a merger. He said Mr Fredriksen had been against a planned reverse takeover of Tui AG by Tui Travel proposed earlier this year – the latest in a long-running series of attempts to merge the two companies.

That idea failed to generate shareholder backing. Tui AG has a 54 per cent stake in Tui Travel.

“Today, we have two companies. The major asset of Tui AG is with the plc and we think we should try to put the [Tui AG] tourism activities together with the plc,” said Mr Trøim.

“Putting together the tourism activities is definitely on the agenda.”

Explaining the share purchase, Mr Trøim said Tui AG was a holding company whose shares stood at a discount to its underlying value. “It is cheaper buying Tui AG,” he explained.

Tui Travel’s shares fell more than 7 per cent, while Tui AG was up around 1 per cent.

Professor Dr Klaus Mangold, who chairs TUI AG’s supervisory board, welcomed Mr Fredrkisen’s share purchase.

“We regard the increase in the shareholding by the Monteray Group/Mr Fredriksen as positive. For TUI AG it is a confirmation of the strategy that has been pursued in recent months,” he said.

Tui AG declined to respond to Mr Troim’s comments, but drew attention to its “oneTui” programme, announced in May, to take out costs across the group and create a more vertically integrated structure.

Tui Travel declined to comment.

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