Lastminute brushes off delayed redesign

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The Independent Online

Lastminute.com, the online travel business, admitted yesterday that it had no idea when its revamped website would be launched but claimed the delays would not have a significant impact on the business.

Lastminute.com, the online travel business, admitted yesterday that it had no idea when its revamped website would be launched but claimed the delays would not have a significant impact on the business.

Brent Hoberman, chief executive, refused to rule out the possibility that the updated site, which was due in June, might not be launched at all. "I would have thought that is incredibly unlikely," he said.

Mr Hoberman said the problem was building the site so it could withstand the level of customer traffic it was likely to attract. The new version, nicknamed V2, is much more complicated technically and is designed to offer a more personalised, sophisticated service to customers.

But Mr Hoberman dismissed suggestions that the site was a re-run of the problems experienced by the now collapsed boo.com, whose website was technically superior but too complicated for use. "The functionality is good. The question is building it to cope with the traffic," Mr Hoberman said.

Lastminute said its team of staff working on the redesign was now quite small and so costs would not escalate.

The embarrassment over the relaunch came as lastminute reported good third-quarter figures showing losses reduced to £9.3m from £11m in the previous quarter.

The number of registered users rose 50 per cent to 2.1 million by the end of June, with 30 per cent of them outside Britain. Total transaction value rose to £9.6m. The proportion of users who made a purchase grew from 5 to 7 per cent. Forty-seven per cent of sales were non-travel related.

Lastminute said its cash balances of £117m were enough to last 13 trading quarters, by which time it would be making a profit. Its shares fell 3.5p to 151p.

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