Ebookers turns a profit

3 Nov 2003

Ebookers, the pan-European online travel agency, has reported an 86pc rise in gross sales to £144.8m sterling and a 98pc increase in turnover to £18.2m sterling in its latest third quarter results. Out of this the company, which employs 80 people in Ireland, turned in a profit before tax of £1.3m sterling.

The results indicate a considerable improvement in the company’s performance since last May when it admitted that some of its businesses were affected by SARS and the geo-political situation.

Ebookers’ CEO Dinesh Dhamija commented: “We have significantly strengthened our management team and technology during the quarter and look forward to the future with confidence.”

The company’s CFO Nigel Addison Smith said that the company’s acquisition of Travelbag contributed significantly to the quarter. “We are benefitting from an improving margin, a reduction in our cost base and rapidly increasing online sales in Travelbag.” By October, some 44pc of Travelbag’s passenger bookings were internet-based, compared to 16pc when Ebookers acquired the company in January. Travelbag’s passenger bookings were up 58pc on the year, driven by strong online sales and growth in bookings to Australia.

Gross sales of £144m sterling were helped considerably by strong sales to Asia and Austrialia, including travellers to the Rugby World Cup. Subsidiaries that performed particularly well included those in Nordic regions, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland.

Ebookers said it invested significantly in the quarter, particularly on elements such as user experience on its websites. In October, the company invested US$10m in the Indian business-process outsourcer Tecnovate.

The company’s results were in line with good news for the internet travel sector today, with Irish international airline Ryanair, which boasts 95pc of sales online, reporting a 28pc increase in revenues to €464.6m and a 16pc increase in profit to €175.5m for the half year ended 30 September. During the half year the company saw passenger numbers increase by 45pc to 7.8 million.

Ebookers, which is quoted on the Nasdaq and London Stock Exchanges, turned in its first profit last year.

This time last year, 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. Over 50pc of the company’s business comes from companies booking for themselves online and over 30,000 customers subscribe to the company’s fortnightly ezine.

By John Kennedy