Online travel retailer Ebookers, which employs 80 people in Ireland, turned in a stunning performance for 2003 with gross sales up 90pc to £521m sterling and turnover up 109pc to £149m sterling. In the final quarter of financial year 2003, Ebookers saw organic internet growth of 69pc. The 2003 results marked the company’s first full-year profit, earning the company £1.3m sterling before tax.
However, the company reported a loss before tax of £14.9m sterling, which included exceptional costs of £5.1m sterling.
The chairman of Ebookers, Dinesh Dhamija, commented: “2003 had a great finish to a tough year. Despite the Iraq war, the SARS epidemic and a very hot European summer persuading would be long-haul travellers to stay at home, we have recorded our first annual adjusted pre-tax profit.
“Our fourth quarter showed continued growth and we have entered 2004 with tremendous organic internet growth of 69pc. The success of our internet strategy means that we can announce today a significant cost reduction programme that will further improve the efficiency of the company”, Dhamija said.
He continued: “We believe that there will be three long-term dominant players in the European online travel industry and we firmly intend to position Ebookers as one of these. Already we have grown from gross sales of £15m sterling in 1999 to £521m sterling this year. We have transformed an adjusted pre-tax loss of £25m sterling in 2000 and £19m sterling in 2001 to today’s first annual adjusted pre-tax profit. Even at this early stage, we received over 3.1m visitors to our websites in January 2004.”
Dhamija said that going into the 2004 financial year, the company would experience a two-tiered re-organisation that would see new senior and board appointments as well as the implementation of the next phase of the company’s cost reduction programme that would see standardisation of websites and systems technologies throughout the group, as well as the removal of duplicative functions and delayering of management. The re-organisation, it is understood, will also lead to a number of job cuts at its UK operation.
It is not clear yet, however, how the restructuring will impact on its Irish operation. Over a year ago the Irish subsidiary of Ebookers announced plans to expand with the creation of 20 new jobs in a new office management project team and European training and business development centre in Dublin. The expansion brought employment at Ebookers Ireland to approximately 80 people.
The company’s Irish business has grown over 300pc year on year since it was established in July 2000 and the company anticipates revenues of €7m this year. During 2003, Ebookers also established its first high street retail presence in Ireland with the opening of its Dawson St store in Dublin.
By John Kennedy