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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 17:24 GMT
Boost for Ebookers after travel turmoil
Online travel group Ebookers has recorded an underlying profit and reported strong bookings for the autumn and winter.

The company made an adjusted pre-tax profit of 1.3m ($2.2m) in the three months to 30 September, against a loss of 800,000 in the same period last year.

Turnover doubled to 18.2m ($30.9m), and it said it was upbeat on its prospects for the rest of the year and first few months of 2004.

The group, whose brands include Ebookers, Travelbag and Bridge the World, said it was looking forward to a period of stability for the travel industry following the Iraq war and Sars outbreak.

At the bottom line, however, it moved further into the red, with pre-tax losses of just over 3m compared to losses of 2m last year, after allowing for charges following the acquisition of Travelbag earlier this year.

European bookings

Ebookers saw a decline in demand for mid and long-haul travel - its key market - in August.

But Chief financial officer Nigel Addison Smith said: "Hopefully at last the travel industry is going to go through a period of normality, and certainly that seems to be the case over the last month or so."

The July to September period saw strong sales of tickets to Australasia and Asia, boosted in part by the Rugby World Cup.

And there were strong sales in Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland, as the popularity of internet booking increased.

The news boosted shares in the company, and they closed the day up 59 pence, more than 13%, at 503p.

The shares were helped by broker Williams de Broe after it raised its recommendation on the firm to "hold" from "underperform".

Internet awareness

Mr Addison Smith said part of the sales growth was because low cost airlines had made UK consumers familiar with booking online.

The growing popularity of internet booking is set to boost Ebookers, and other internet travel sites such as Expedia and Lastminute.com, he said.

"As they (budget airlines) spread across Europe, setting up more and more hubs, the three of us will benefit as the consumer realises how much better it is to book travel online."

And he said about 46% of Travelbag's bookings were now done on the internet, compared to 16% in January before it was acquired.

Ebookers has also driven up more profitable non-air products such as hotel bookings, car-hire and insurance - which now accounts for 36% of its business compared to 31% a year ago.




SEE ALSO:
Ebookers 'confident' on future
04 Aug 03  |  Business
Ebookers journeys into the black
07 May 03  |  Business
War effect hits Ebookers
24 Mar 03  |  Business
Ebookers snaps up Travelbag
21 Jan 03  |  Business
Ebookers poised for profit
11 Nov 02  |  Business
Ebookers growth continues
12 Aug 02  |  Business


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