December 16, 2014 / 4:13 PM / in 3 years

Dotcom darling Lastminute.com changes hands for $120 million

LONDON (Reuters) - Lastminute.com, a company that came to symbolize the rise and fall of Internet firms in the dotcom bubble, is to be bought by Swiss online travel company Bravofly Rumbo Group, for about $120 million, owner U.S. company Sabre Corp said.

In 2000 the group was worth 768 million pounds after a flotation which coincided with the high-water mark of the Internet bubble, when companies in any way related to the web were valued far in excess of typical measures using turnover and earnings.

Its IPO came four days after the tech-focused U.S. Nasdaq index peaked at 5,132 points.

Within weeks its shares had fallen to below 190 pence, and it didn’t post a pretax profit for another three years. It was sold to Sabre, the owner of Travelocity, for about 600 million pounds in 2005, which put it up for sale in August this year.

The online travel market has evolved since lastminute.com was founded, with websites like Skyscanner, Booking.com and Expedia able to comb fares from multiple providers to offer customers better deals.

Bravofly, which listed in Switzerland earlier this year, said lastminute.com was a good fit for its plan to expand in Europe.

“We believe in the value and strength of lastminute.com’s iconic brand, which is recognized by more than 90 percent of European consumers,” Bravofly chairman Fabio Cannavale said in a statement on Tuesday.

Founded by Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman in 1998, the website sells last-minute holidays, flights, event tickets and restaurant deals.

($1 = 0.6345 pounds)

Reporting by Paul Sandle and Sarah Young, editing by David Evans

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