Lastminute.com buys French e-travel company

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LONDON--U.K.-based online retailer lastminute.com has strengthened its e-commerce operations in Europe with the $88 million acquisition of a leading French travel dot-com company Degriftour Group.

"This is a great deal," says Brent Hoberman, CEO of lastminute.com. "It achieves today what our business plan would have taken two to three years to achieve in France. Our gross profit increases by almost nine times."

Lastminute.com also expects the acquisition to help lift its loss-making operation out of the red in a shorter time frame than forecast. Degriftour is France's largest e-travel company with 50% market share based on 1999 revenues and about 250,000 customers since April 1998. For the financial year ending March 31, 2000, the company posted gross profit of $14.5 million.

Lastminute.com's and Degriftour Group's Web sites will eventually be linked, although initially a dual brand strategy will operate in France with lastminute.com immediately visible to Degriftour Group visitors and vice-versa.

Degriftour Group is a private company, owned approximately 78% by the founder, Francis Reverse, and his immediate family and associates, and some 22% by management and their families.

Copyright August 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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