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Lastminute.com Announces Mixed Figures

[London, ENGLAND] Users up by 800 percent, losses deepen by 800 percent -- that's the year-on-year progress made by European late offers retailer lastminute.com, according to figures released Monday.

In the year ended September 30, 2000, lastminute.com lost US $51 million and picked up the "Worst U.K. Travel Site" award from 6,000 readers of the Daily Telegraph.

On the plus side, lastminute.com gained nearly 2.5 million new subscribers and sold over three hundred thousand items during the same period.

Not surprisingly, Chairman Allan Leighton chose to look on the bright side.

"The financial results announced today show solid growth, against all key metrics, with costs and losses contained within plan," claimed Leighton.

He went on to say that lastminute's acquisition of France's largest e-travel group Degriftour makes it the market leader in two of Europe's largest e-commerce markets and enhances its capability to create what he called "a serious European platform."

However, Leighton admitted there was still a lot to do -- the only hint in the whole presentation that everyone at lastminute.com is not entirely happy with the results for the year.

Investors, perhaps relieved that the losses were not much worse than expected, showed sufficient confidence to boost lastminute's shares by 7 percent in early trading Monday.

Rightly or wrongly, lastminute.com is seen by many as a bellwether of the e-commerce economy in Europe. Its progress almost exactly parallels that of auctioneers QXL ricardo -- in the massive increase in users, a major European takeover, deepening losses, and optimistic statements about the future.

The only difference is that investors appear more inclined to keep faith with lastminute.com than they do with QXL ricardo.