Lastminute.com crawls towards profit

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Lastminute.com is convinced it has enough spare cash to see its business report a profit without having to go cap-in-hand to its investors.

Announcing a jump in turnover and widening pre-tax losses, co-founder and one-time dotcom darling, Martha Lane-Fox, insisted that things were on the up.

Lane-Fox told newswire AFX News: "We see operating profitability at the end of 2002 ... and are absolutely confident that we have enough cash to see use through to break-even."

The adult wares, gifts, and bucket travel shop reported increased Q3 turnover of £4.4 million for the three months ended June 30, compared to £1 million in the corresponding period last year.

Pre-tax loss increased from £9.3 million in Q3 2000 to £12.9 million.

Total transaction value for the last nine months topped £77.3 million and is predicted to climb to more than £120 million by the end of the year.

At the same time, the amount of cash pouring out of the company fell from £9.1 million for Q2 to £8.6 million in Q3.

As at June 30 the outfit had £53.3 million spare cash.

Said chairman Allan Leighton: "Lastminute.com continues to improve on all of the retail basics.

"Costs, margins, conversion rates and cashflow continue to move ahead in a period traditionally quiet for sales.

"The fourth quarter will see us exceed £45 million 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," he said.

By mid morning shares in the dotcom had nudged up .25p (.73 per cent) to 34.50p. ®

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