Lastminute taps market to buy French online rival Travelprice

Lastminute.com, the internet travel company that once epitomised dot.com excess, tapped the equity market for the second time in two months yesterday to fund the acquisition of a French online travel agency.

Lastminute, which reached operational profitability in France and the UK earlier this year, is issuing up to 34.6 million new shares to buy Travelprice.com, a private French travel and leisure group. The deal, the latest in a string of acquisitions, will give the UK group further scale in France and Italy, where it heads the online travel market.

Martha Lane Fox, lastminute's managing director who symbolised the tech stock millionaires when the group floated at the peak of the internet bubble in March 2000, said the group was "taking a pause for breath" before hitting the acquisition trail again. She said the company was "mindful" of the potential pitfalls of integrating acquisitions "but confident [we] have the management bandwidth to do it".

Lastminute said the purchase of Travelprice.com would yield €10m (£6m) in annual cost savings after one-off integration costs of €5m this year. Some of the cost savings will come from job losses among the two group's French employees, although Roland Coutas, Travelprice.com's chief executive, will join lastminute's executive team as head of the enlarged group's southern European operations. The deal is expected to enhance earnings in the first year of ownership.

Ms Lane Fox defended the decision to issue more paper in a weak market. "We have been leveraging our share price performance. Cash is one of the most precious things we have and until we generate cash we are unlikely to want to use it," she said.

Lastminute's shares, which dived below 20p last September, were flat yesterday at 92p. The group, which raised £113m when it floated at 380p-a-share in March 2000, had £34.7m of cash on its balance sheet at the end of March. Travelprice, which made a loss of €23.2m last year, will add €10m to lastminute's cash pile, Ms Lane Fox added.

Like lastminute, Travelprice offers customers the opportunity to make eleventh-hour purchases of flights, holidays and hotel bookings. It operates in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, where it will increase lastminute's scale, helping it inch towards profitability at a group level.

"The deal shows that lastminute plc is able to support multiple brands and that is exciting. We have three brands in France – degriftour.com, lastminute.com and Travelprice.com – which appeal to different customers, a bit like three shop fronts," Ms Lane Fox said.

While recent additions to lastminute's portfolio have included well-known travel brands such as travel4less and Travelselect.com, Ms Lane Fox ruled out ever joining forces with another success story in the online travel sector, ebookers.com. She said the rival group's flights-focused model did not fit lastminute's product mix, quashing recent speculation of a tie-up.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam