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The BBC's Adam Kirtley
"The flotation that started with a bang has not gone smoothly"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 April, 2000, 12:12 GMT 13:12 UK
Apology for Lastminute bungles
lastminute.con: countermanded cheque
Lastminute.com: Payment countermanded by order of the drawer
The company administering the UK's largest ever internet flotation has accepted the blame for a series of errors which have hit thousands of investors.

The registrars for the Lastminute.com float, IRG, had at first denied that there had been any fault on their part.

Their job was to issue the share certificates and refund cheques to the 190,000 private investors who took part in the float.

Individual investors were allocated 35 shares, worth 133 in the float.

As the minimum amount they could apply for was 500, IRG was in charge of issuing refund cheques to investors for at least 367.

But the process has been marred by a growing number of complaints about share certificates and refund cheques being delayed or not arriving at all.

Steps being taken

In addition, a number of investors have contacted the BBC to say that refund cheques had bounced.

The bungled handling of the float has added to the downbeat story of the company since its shares started trading, a period which has seen its share price almost halve.

Lastminute.com dropped a further 17p to 205.5p on Tuesday morning, hit by the ongoing sell-off in technology stocks.

In a statement responding to the complaints, IRG said: "IRG wish to emphasise that these errors did not result from Lastminute.com and wishes to apologise."

The company claimed that "only a small number of investors is affected" and that it had taken steps "to rectify the situation".

Share price slump

The bouncing cheques were an added embarrassment to Lastminute.com, which has already seen its share price slump from the 380p issue price, which valued the company at 571m.

At Tuesday's price each private investor's 133 is worth just 71.75.

The falls have also cut the paper fortunes of Lastminute.com's founders Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox.

Mr Hoberman's stake is now worth 31m, while Ms Lane Fox's stake is valued at around 18m.

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See also:

30 Mar 00 | Business
European internet fever cools
15 Mar 00 | Business
Floating out of favour?
02 Mar 00 | Business
Martha my very dear
09 Mar 00 | Business
Lastminute ups its float price
14 Mar 00 | Business
Lastminute shares close up 28%
15 Mar 00 | Business
Lastminute loss for investors
21 Mar 00 | Business
Further fall for Lastminute shares
31 Mar 00 | Business
Tech stock trouble
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