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Monday, 16 July, 2001, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Lastminute snaps up takeaway site
Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox of Lastminute.com
Martha Lane Fox (right): Details of roll-out to come
The UK's best known dot.com, Lastminute, has added the takeover of a takeaway food site to its recent sports and leisure tie-ups.

Lastminute has bought Urbanbite, a food home-delivery service founded two years ago by a former investment banker and an internet entrepreneur.

The buyout comes nine months after Urbanbite went live. Since launch the site has attracted 5,000 customers.

"They have a great service, and a really good management team. but they do not have the budget to market themselves," Martha Lane Fox, Lastminute's co-founder, told BBC News Online.

"We have 3.1 million users to bring Urbanbite to."

But Ms Lane Fox declined to comment in detail, ahead of an announcement in two weeks time, on how Lastminute intends to develop the business.

"We want to allow the deal to bed down and to examine further the opportunities before making a statement," she said.

Lastminute, which is paying the equivalent of 140,000 in its shares for Urbanbite, gains 100,000 euros in cash reserves through the deal.

Sector shake-up

The takeover comes at a time of continuing consolidation and rationalisation among dot.com firms worldwide, as loss-making e-commerce companies attempt to cut costs and conserve savings to ensure they make it through to break-even point.

US online grocer Webvan last week became the latest victim of the dot.com crash, after losing $700m in the two years since it was launched.

Lastminute.com, one of the UK's best known online retailers, has moved into over-the-phone sales and negotiated tie-ups with the likes of Thomas Cook to secure future prosperity.

The firm, while widely viewed as a travel site, has also sought to stress its presence in other etail markets.

Two weeks ago Lastminute announced a tie-up with the new media arm of broadcast giant Granada over a service which allow sports fans to buy late-availability tickets for events such as Arsenal and Liverpool football matches and the British Grand Prix.

New frontier?

In the restaurant sector, Lastminute has been most widely used as a booking service, although the Urbanbite move may herald an expansion into a home-delivery sector once a top target for internet entrepreneurs.

Competitors include Lobster.co.uk, an upmarket food delivery firm part-owned by hotels magnate Sir Rocco Forte.

Urbanbite has, since its October 2000 launch in London, added Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Bristol operations, with Manchester and Utrecht identified for future expansion.

The site claims to have signed up 450 UK restaurants, and 100 Dutch outlets.

In the City, Lastminute shares closed unchanged at 31.5p on Monday.

See also:

08 May 01 | Business
Lastminute sees profit within a year
21 Mar 01 | Business
Lastminute joins 90% club
12 Feb 01 | Business
Lastminute user numbers barely grow
04 Dec 00 | Business
Lastminute posts 36m loss
24 Nov 00 | Business
Investors turn cold on UK dot.coms
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