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Lastminute.com floored by increased losses

'Fallen short of expectations'

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Shares in Lastminute.com dipped sharply this morning after the online travel business reported a whopping increase in losses.

The company admitted that its performance had "fallen short of expectations" and blamed the £77.2m pre-tax loss (up from a loss of £47.7m in 2003) on recent acquisitions. Turnover for the year jumped 130 per cent to £440m from £191m.

Said boss Brent Hoberman: "Whilst demonstrating continued improvements in most key metrics our financial performance has fallen short of expectations. Our acquisition strategy has given us the necessary scale to compete across our core European market but this has come at the expense of a higher cost base."

He said the integration of these businesses "is underway" and that Lastminute.com has "identified significant cost savings that we will deliver in 2005 ... The underlying performance of the lastminute.com brand remains robust with 58.2 per cent organic growth in the year, and a record 2.9mn customers throughout the Group in the year."

In early trading Lastminute.com shares were down 15.75p (13 per cent) at 104p.

Separately, UK internet bank Egg has confirmed that it is to sell its loss-making French division to ING Direct France. The sale will transfer 45,000 savings and investment accounts to ING Direct France and lead to the "redeployment of up to 40 of Egg's 450 French workforce". ®

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