Lastminute.com sold for £76m to Swiss travel firm

 
Kate McCann
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Travel site Lastminute.com has been sold to Bravofly Rumbo following a £76m bid
TRAVEL site Lastminute.com, founded at the height of the dot.com boom in 1998, has been sold to Bravofly Rumbo Group in a £76m deal. The sale will see current owner, US-based Sabre, swallow a big loss, having bought the holiday site for £577m in 2005.

Swiss company Bravofly made the winning bid yesterday, following a competitive process during which a further 20 big firms are said to have expressed interest. Bravofly beat the likes of Oakley, Expedia, Priceline, Edreams and Orbit, who were also involved.

Fabio Cannavale, chairman of Bravofly Rumbo said yesterday: “Lastminute.com is the perfect fit for Bravofly Rumbo Group. Its business complements and expands our offering in Europe and, with its strong presence in the hotel and vacation sector, diversifies our product revenue streams.”

The deal is expected to be completed in the new year, when Bravofly will acquire all of Lastminute.com’s main operations in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Sabre first said it was looking for a buyer for the platform back in August, when it hired Houlihan Lokey to explore options. The £76m sale tag is a long way short of what Sabre paid back in 2005, £577m, but a source close to the deal said Lastminute.com is a much smaller business than it was nearly 10 years ago, and Sabre was happy to take the hit in order to focus its attention elsewhere.

The source added that the future for Lastminute.com is as a large market force in the European travel space. The combined revenues of Bravofly and Lastminute.com will be £206m.

The company was founded by Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman in 1998, and floated two years later with a valuation of £571m. Shares spiked 35 per cent on the group’s first day of trading, before falling significantly in the following weeks.

PROFILE: LASTMINUTE.COM FOUNDERS

LASTMINUTE.COM, the so-called darling of the dot.com era, was founded in 1998 by Oxford graduates Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox; the latter has since become a baroness.

The double-team listed the travel company in 2000 and shares rocketed 35 per cent on the first day of trading, valuing the business at £800m following a listing closer to £600m. It was a slightly trickier story after that, with shares dipping sharply within just a few weeks. When Lastminute.com listed on the London stock exchange, Hoberman was 31 and Lane Fox was just 27.

The site specialises in last-minute holiday packages, flights and hotel bookings, as well as tickets to west-end shows and other events. It was dreamt up by the duo who were colleagues at Spectrum, a company specialising in writing business plans for media and technology companies.

Spectrum was Lane Fox’s first job out of university, where she was struck by the potential of the internet when she first heard about email. Asked what her big break was back in the early days of Lastminute.com, she answered “That's easy. Meeting Brent Hoberman. Definitely.” Lane Fox is now the baroness of Soho, and sits in the House of Lords. She is the founder and chair of Luckyvoice karaoke and advises the government on digital policy.

Hoberman went on to found Made.com, an online furniture retailer, in 2011 and also sits on the board of Guardian Media Group, TalkTalk and music platform Shazam.

BEHIND THE DEAL
KHALID IBRAHIM | HOULIHAN LOKEY

1 Khalid is a vice president in Houlihan Lokey’s mergers and acquisitions group. Previously he worked at HSBC and Deutsche Bank, where he started his career as a graduate analyst.

2 He is fluent in Dutch, English and French and holds a masters in international business administration from the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University. He is currently based in Houlihan Lokey’s London office.

3 Khalid interned at cosmetic company L’Oreal in Paris before graduating and joining Deutsche Bank. He enjoys spending time with his newborn daughter, playing tennis and cycling to the office when it’s not raining.

Also advising…

Steve Winningham, who runs corporate finance in Europe, was a senior figure on the deal. Khalid also advised Austrian RIH in its acquisition of Slovenia based Helios for €250m in April this year.