Founded in 1998 and available in the UK, Germany, France and Sweden, the site offers last-minute airline tickets, hotel rooms, package holidays, entertainment tickets, restaurant reservations, specialty services, gifts and auctions. The company claims to have over 1.1 million registered subscribers in Europe.
Under the agreement, travel.com.au will contribute capital in return for equity in a new joint venture company to be set up locally. Lastminute.com will provide services such as designing and hosting the joint venture company's website, and providing technical support, for a period of time, in return for equity in the new company. In addition, travel.com.au will provide management for the startup operation.
A number of strategic partners and investors have interests in lastminute.com, including venture funds operated by France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, priceline.com, Sony Music, Intel, and hotel and resort operators Bass Hotels and Starwood Hotels.
According to the company, recent research conducted by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) found that lastminute.com was the second most recognised ecommerce retailer in the UK. Among its key suppliers lastminute.com lists British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and the English National Ballet.
David Tonkin, CEO of travel.com.au, said lastminute.com offers products and services at short notice, enabling customers to make spur-of-the-moment decisions about how to spend their time and money. "We see this as a natural fit for travel.com.au, and an aspect of ecommerce that we believe the online consumer has been eagerly awaiting in Australia and New Zealand," Tonkin said.
Lastminute's CEO and co-founder, Brent Hoberman, said the joint venture was the next step in the British company's global strategy. "We believe that our expertise combined with travel.com.au's reputation will enable us to create a joint venture with the potential to take a lead position in this growing market," he said.
"Together, we are looking forward to growing the lastminute.com brand and developing a service in a market which we believe is internet-savvy."