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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 August, 2004, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Lastminute axes 14% of workforce
Brent Hoberman, Lastminute.com CEO
Brent Hoberman: Further challenges ahead
Online travel agent Lastminute.com has said it plans to cut 350 jobs, or 14% of its workforce, as part of a cost-cutting drive.

Lastminute said the lay-offs were needed to avoid duplication of staff roles following recent acquisitions.

The firm plans to close ten of its 25 offices, including six in the UK, in an effort to trim costs by 10% next year.

The news came as Lastminute said third quarter profits had edged higher despite "difficult" market conditions.

Profits before tax and financial charges for the three months to June came in at 4.3m ($7.7m ; 6.4m euros), up from 4.1m during the same period last year.

Testing times

The total value of the holidays booked on Lastminute's websites over the period rose sharply, climbing 78% on the year to 268.9m.

Lastminute chairman Allan Leighton said the company, in common with other travel operators, had been affected by a growing tendency for consumers to book their holidays later than usual.

"Against these tough market conditions, lastminute.com has continued to perform well," he said.

Chief executive Brent Hoberman said that while Lastminute faced a further test over the key summer months, the company was set to achieve further growth.

"Whilst the outlook for the final quarter of the financial year remains challenging, we remain confident of making further significant progress," he said.

Lastminute, the best-known survivor of Britain's 'dot.com' boom, does the bulk of its business during the peak holiday months of June, July and August,

In the City, Lastminute shares were up more than 10% at 139p in early trade.

Lastminute said it would announce where and when the job cuts will take effect in late September.

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