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Scoot grinds through re-org

Huge losses

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Scoot.com, the accident-prone online directory-cum-infomediary, has survived another quarter. And what a quarter.

It's sold Loot UK and Ireland, the classified ads paper business, to the Daily Mail General Trust for £45m (admittedly a day after its Q3 books closed on September 30). This represents a huge loss - it paid £178m cash for Loot in June 2000, but the alternative was very bleak - at the end of Q3, the company had just £4.3m cash in hand to fund the business.

Following the sale, Scoot.com has repaid a bridging loan to DGMT, settled disposal costs and redeemed the convertible debentures. As of 27 October, 2001 the group had £12.2m of free cash and it is shorn of long-term debt obligations.

In July Scoot sold its continental European ops to JV partner Vivendi for the knockdown sum of one euro. And it lost ownership rights to the Scoot.com name. But this means it can concentrate on securing its UK and Irish business (also lossmaking - in the red to the tune of £ 3.3m in Q3, compared with a £5.8m loss in Q2 on EBITDA calculations).

With all the write-offs, disposals and re-orgs, the company has declared a pre-tax loss of £174.8m for the first nine months of the year (2000: £ -£34.2m). This is kind of historic, as the comparisons are for Scoot, the company that was.
The real test for Scoot.com, the UK business it is today, will come in Q4. These results will show if there really is a sustainable business. ®

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