The UK-based Thomas Cook Group has consolidated its leading role in the travellers cheque market with the takeover of Interpayment Services, a subsidiary of Barclays Bank. Thomas Cook is already the world’s largest supplier of MasterCard travellers cheques. It now becomes the main issuer of Visa cheques, creating an operation with more than $16,000 million annual sales worldwide.

The Interpayment purchase confirms Thomas Cook’s strong position in the Middle East. After a year in which Interpayment and Arab Financial Services have withdrawn from the regional travellers cheque market, Thomas Cook forecasts growth potential (MEED 11:3:94).

Ahmed Shoukri, Thomas Cook’s Bahrain-based regional manager for financial institution services says ‘substantial growth (is) predicted in both tourist and business traffic within the region during the coming decade.’

Thomas Cook plans to amalgamate the administration and distribution of Interpayment with its own operation, but it will keep the sale of Mastercard and Visa services to financial institutions separate, with the new Interpayment subsidiary continuing to supply institutions which sell its Visa cheques.

The other main suppliers in the region are American Express – the world’s largest provider of travellers cheques – and Citibank. Thomas Cook is reportedly in talks with Citibank about a possible merger or joint venture of their global travellers cheque operations.