Priceline wields the jobs axe in London

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The Independent Online

Priceline Europe, the London-based division of the American "name you own price" internet business, is cutting 40 of the 60 jobs at its London office as part of a wide-ranging restructuring.

The European division is being integrated into Priceline.com, the Nasdaq listed business whose fortunes have been hit by a combination of the internet bubble's collapse and the impact of the 11 September terrorist attacks.

The changes will see Dennis Malamatinas step down as chief executive of Priceline Europe to become non-executive chairman. Mr Malamatinas was one of the highest profile defections from the Old Economy world to the dot.com arena when he gave up a $1.5m (£1.0m) a year salary as chief executive of Burger King last year to join Priceline.

Speaking from California yesterday he said: "When I look back I have no regrets. I've enjoyed what I've done. We built a company from scratch and I've learned a lot. The things we joined to do like taking Priceline to an IPO are not going to happen. It's time to move on."

He said he had no immediate job plans but wanted to stay in Europe to be close to his family. "It would have to be a chief executive job," he said.

Priceline lets buyers name the price they are prepared to pay for things such as airline seats and holidays. But sales dropped by around 40 per cent after the 11 September attacks though Mr Malamatinas says bookings have started to come back. When Mr Malamatinas joined Priceline in June last year it was worth $6.8bn on Nasdaq. It is now worth $850m.

Richard Braddock, the chairman and chief executive of Priceline.com said: "Priceline Europe is taking prudent steps to maximise its operating efficiencies in the short term and position the company to be a major player once growth resumes in the European online travel market."

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