Lastminute.com axes 350 jobs

Was it planned or a last minute decision?

Lastminute.com is to cull 350 jobs and close ten of its 25 offices in a bid to slash overheads and "streamline" its operation. The cutbacks will be carried out during the 2005 financial year.

The exact details of who is for the chop haven't been release although the Internet travel and gift outfit said it would release further details at the end of next month.

Although the one-time dotcom darling is reluctant to give away too many details, it seems it wants to "further eliminate duplication and introduce more uniform, streamlined processes across the Group" following a recent round of acquisitions including German doppelganger lastminute.de and Online Travel Corporation (OTC).

As a result, six offices in the UK and four overseas will be shut. Once the 350 jobs are cut Lastminute.com's headcount will reduce to around 2,050.

"We anticipate that costs will be reduced significantly by the effect of the rationalisation of various call centres as we move forward into the 2005 financial year. This is a carefully considered initiative, which we believe will significantly improve the service quality in these functions," said the company in a statement.

Publishing its Q3 results today, Lastminute.com reported turnover of £168m, up from £62.6m during the same period last year. Pre-tax loss increased from £12.2m last year to £17m in Q3 2004.

Said chief exec, Brent Hoberman: "We have consolidated our position as the leading online independent travel and leisure group in Europe and have made continued progress in a number of key areas of our operation. Whilst the outlook for the final quarter of the financial year remains challenging we remain confident of making further significant progress." Earlier this year Lastminute.com axed around a dozen IT jobs after deciding to export tech jobs to Argentina. At the time the Internet company said it was a "carefully considered initiative, which we believe will significantly improve the service quality in these functions". ®

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