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Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 16:23 GMT
Online flirting boosts love firm home page single minded
What is love worth? About 2m a year, figures from one of the UK's premier dating agency groups reveals.

OneSaturday, the firm which owns the Dateline, Club Sirius and Elite Introductions businesses, reported 20% growth between May and October in the number of lonely hearts subscribing to its services.

Just as you go to an estate agent to buy a house, there is value in going to an introduction agency to find someone to have a relationship with

Louise Hanson

And trade is set to increase thanks to a growing acceptance of dating agencies, and the emergence of "online flirting".

"The growth in our subscriber figures reflects partly the success of targeted advertising, and partly decreasing stigma," Louise Hanson, marketing director, told BBC News Online.

"People are more busy and have less leisure time. They recognise that just as you go to an estate agent to buy a house, there is value in going to an introduction agency to find someone to have a relationship with."

Web dating

Those with less serious intentions are logging onto dating websites, such as OneSaturday's own site, which has attracted 25,000 subscribers.

Company profile - OneSaturday
Formed: June 2000 through merger Single Scenes and Club Sirius
Listed: August 2000 (UK's only listed dating firm)
Turnover*: 2.05m
Profit*: -1.77m
Owns: Dateline, Elite Introductions, Club Sirius

* figs May-Oct, adjusted for firm's launch in June

"These are not as serious as the planned service offered by traditional dating agencies," Ms Hanson said.

"People join for a shorter period of time, perhaps to meet new friends, or just to flirt.

"You can be anyone you want on the internet."

A fact which, while offering certain attractions, poses the kind of security concerns which support the need for formal agencies, Ms Hanson said.

Holiday romance

And OneSaturday's traditional businesses are planning to boost revenue from the UK's estimated 8 million singletons through tapping the desire to mix dating with holidays.

The firm is itself seeking a partner for travel and romance, with a long term relationship a possibility.

Subscriber numbers
Dateline: 28,000
Club Sirius: 9,000
Elite Introductions: 5,000

Company chairman Chris Matthews said: "We are actively developing the business of singles holidays, with a view to building our presence in this market in conjunction with a strategic partner."

The firm is considering expanding online operation to cover financial services, ticket sales and restaurant reservations.

The portal was on Tuesday offering health advice, financial information, and articles with titles such as "obsessed with threesome", "sex is so noisy", and "initiation: a woman's spiritual adventure in the heart of the Andes".

Dateline's website, which attracts revenues of 8,000 a week, is running at profit, the company said.

Nonetheless company turnover of 2.05m translated into a loss of 1.77m for the six months.

OneSaturday blamed the loss on one-off costs associated with the firm's official formation last year, and its listing on London's small company stock market AIM.

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