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Ebookers increased sales for the first quarter by 47 per cent and is confident about the year ahead. Despite the positive results the company is cutting 270 jobs, 200 in the UK and 70 in India, as business processes are increasingly automated. The cuts should save ebookers £2.5m this year.

Gross sales for the quarter were £160m and the online travel agent made a profit of £1.25m - up from a loss of £4.9m for the same period last year. Margins for its mid and long range flights were just over 9 per cent. Short haul flight margins fell to as low as one per cent.

Ebookers has nearly finished its JD Edwards back office integration programme and is beginning mid-office integration. As a result of acquisitions ebookers has four different mid-office systems. It expects good savings from the unified system by the end of this year.

ebookers believes its strategy of buying offline travel companies and stripping out costs by converting them to web-based businesses will continue to deliver profits. It bought Travelbag, a big UK agent specialising in longhaul travel, in 2003. Travelbag now takes 54 per cent of its bookings online, up from 16 per cent before acquisition.

Ebookers long-term aim is to cut net operating costs to 8.5 per cent of gross sales. ®

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