The Majorcan business group Barceló Corporación Empresarial, which is the holding company for the Barceló Group, yesterday became the largest share holder in the British tour operator First Choice after purchasing shares equivalent to 7.51 percent of the tour operator at an estimated value of around £54.4 million. The Majorcan group has now entered into an 18 month equity swap over approximately 34.4 million First Choice ordinary shares which were purchased by Credit Suisse First Boston from Thomas Cook and German group Preussag which has recently purchased Thomson Travel at a price of 150 pence per share. As a result of the transactions together with its existing holdings, the Barceló group will have a beneficial interest of 12.65 percent of First Choice. In June First Choice purchased the Barceló Travel Division and under the agreements of the deal, Barceló could by the next year have a 21 percent stake in the British Tour operator. Depending on the financial performance of Barceló Travel Division and First Choice, Barcelò could be given the option of a further 76.5 million shares. This latest move by Barceló is part of the Majorcan group's strategy to expand and extend its interests in the European tourism industry.

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