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HomeRegional acquired First Option acquired First Option plc announced the purchase of a specialist leading UK hotel booking agency… plc announced the purchase of a specialist leading UK hotel booking agency , First Option Hotel Reservations Ltd (First Option) for £12.1 million.

The Group also announces a trading update for the period to 31 December 2003.

Acquisition of First Option


further broadens the UK hotel database providing access to a much wider range of UK properties from B&Bs to 5* hotels

increases the combined Group`s hotel bookings to over 4 million room nights for 2003

provides physical presence at 21 locations principally at mainline UK railway stations and airports which are intended to be re-branded as This will enhance the Group`s brand awareness and provide significant new merchandising opportunities including the facility to cross-sell car hire, theatre and restaurants from those direct point-of-sale areas

creates an opportunity to transform the 21 retail outlets to 24/7 selling opportunities using innovative technology solutions for the unmanned periods

creates an opportunity for First Option`s corporate customers to gain access to the wider range of products

increases the hotel category TTV (Total Transaction Value) by some £60 million annually

earnings enhancing in the year of acquisition

First Option is a profitable company which was established in 1994. The last published audited accounts of the First Option Group for the year to March 2003 show turnover (defined as commission or management/booking fees) of £7.5 million and profit before tax of £0.7 million. Net liabilities at that date amounted to £0.9 million. First Option is a UK based operation with a staff of approximately 200 people, mainly based at the call centre in Stockport and at the retail outlets throughout the UK.

The consideration will be satisfied by £10.5 million in cash and the issue of 752,353 shares in plc. The consideration shares issued to Sheetal Kapoor, the owner, are the subject of a lock-up period for up to 12 months. Sheetal will remain with the business via a part-time consultancy agreement for a period of 6 months to ensure the integration into is successfully completed.

Application has been made to the UK Listing Authority and the London Stock Exchange for all new shares to be admitted to the Official List and to trading on the London Stock Exchange`s market for listed securities (“Admission”). It is expected that Admission will become effective from 8am on 16 January 2004 and dealings will commence at that time.

Commenting on the transaction, Brent Hoberman, Chief Executive Officer of said: “The acquisition of First Option creates an opportunity for further growth in a category where the margins are good and the returns are sustainable. Hotels is a product category which has seen great adoption by consumers online. The presence at principal UK railway stations and airports will add significantly to the overall reach of and continues the delivery of our mission to make a part of people`s daily lives. This acquisition again accelerates our growth in the UK, our largest market and moves us to a leading position in the online hotels category.”

Sheetal Kapoor, Managing Director and Founder of First Option added: “I am delighted that First Option has been acquired by a parent that will help the business to continue to grow as the synergies of the businesses for both corporate and retail customers are compelling. I look forward to continue working with the Group to assist with the integration process of First Option into I am sure that First Option will add materially to the overall hotel portfolio.”

Trading update

Trading in the First Quarter, the seasonally weakest quarter, was strong with TTV by departure basis being ahead of expectations especially in the area of flights. All other financial metrics are broadly in line with expectations taking into account a higher level of TTV.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.