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Travel.com.au Announces Last Minute Joint Venture

London-based company Last Minute Network Limited, a subsidiary of lastminute.com plc, has announced a joint e-commerce venture agreement with Australian travel site travel.com.au to introduce the site into Australia and New Zealand.

The alliance comes just a day after travel site travelshop.com.au made its debut on the Australian Stock Exchange, closing up on yesterday with stocks continuing to rise today.

The emphasis of travelshop is the company's ability to offer a wide range of travel facilities on an auction basis over the Internet and through their seven retail travel agencies in major shopping centres throughout Western Australia.

travelshop.com.au has gained internet credibility over its nine years by announcing deals to become the preferred travel provider for major sites ninemsn and News Limited, along with free ISP service FreeOnline.

The lastminute/travel.com.au merger is aiming to compete with this service by promising to match supply and demand at the last minute to travel.com.au, a site which already provides a full range of travel products and services for business and leisure.

In the future, users will be able to access airline tickets, hotel rooms, package holidays, entertainment tickets, restaurant reservations and gifts through the shared site and book with little notice or difficulty.

The terms of the alliance specify that travel.com.au will contribute capital in return for equity in the joint venture (JV) company, and provide management for the start-up operation.

Lastminute will provide services and technical support for the JV company's site.

Travel.com.au CEO David Tonkin said lastminute.com would offer products and services and short notice, "enabling customers to make spur-of-the-moment decision about how to spend their time and money".

Mr Tonkin said the merger with lastminute.com was a "natural fit" for the Australian travel company.

"It [the merger] is an aspect of e-commerce that we believe the online consumer has been eagerly awaiting in Australia and New Zealand," he said.

Lastminute's CEO and co-founder Brent Hoberman said the UK company was looking forward to developing his company's site in a market which he believes is very "Internet savvy".

"Our joint venture with travel.com.au is the next step in our global strategy. We believe that our expertise combined with travel.com.au's reputation with Australian and New Zealand consumers will enable us to create a joint venture with the potential to take a lead position in this growing market," he said.