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Market unmoved by Lastminute.com results

Losses increase for the discount store, but it's still positive, with interactive terminals at Heathrow airport and in Oxford Street stores planned
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

The London stock market reacted calmly to the news that discount travel store Lastminute.com had made a pre-tax loss of £12.93m in the last three months, but was still confident of breaking even by spring 2002.

The dot-com has run up losses of over £42m in the last nine months, compared to £26.3m for the same period a year ago. This is on the back of sales of £77.3m, which is around 3.7 times more than the company achieved at the same stage in its last financial year. Shares in Lastminute.com rose slightly at the start of trading before falling back to 34.75p at 10.30am -- just 0.25p higher than Wednesday's closing price.

Lastminute is predicting that total revenue for this financial year will reach £120m, keeping it on track for its profitability target. "Lastminute.com continues to improve on all the retail basics," insisted chairman Allan Leighton. "The fourth quarter will see us exceed £45m total transaction value in a quarter for the first time and continue on track to deliver break even in the UK and France at an operational level in nine months' time."

Leighton, formally the boss of supermarket chain Asda, became chairman of Lastminute.com in October 2000 -- a move that was widely seen as an attempt to bring some "old-economy" experience to the company. Since his appointment the firm has entered into an agreement with Thomas Cook, and also begun selling a range of "adult" products, such as edible underwear and pornographic magazines.

Lastminute.com has also announced that it will be installing four computer terminals at Heathrow Airport, and another at the Bhs store on Oxford Street. The kiosks will allow users to buy flights, hotel rooms and cinema and theatre tickets from Lastminute.com, and will be targeted at the tourist market.

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