It has emerged today that e-bookers made a payout of nearly GBP1 million to one of its directors, Tani Dhamija - the chiefs wife - giving rise to growing concern amongst investors. This news has broken just a day after e-bookers’ released an impressive set of results for the 3Q.
e-bookers stated that the payment of GBP993,000 was in recognition of “her contribution to the restructuring of the UK business after the acquisition of Flightbookers”.
The company shares rose nearly 5% to 465p yesterday, after the online travel company reported adjusted pre-tax profits of £1.3m for the third quarter of 2003, against a loss of £800,000 in the year-earlier period.
After tax, its losses in the three months to end-September widened to £3m from £2m last time.
Gross sales improved by 86% to £144.8m, while turnover grew 98% to £18.2m. An increase in non-air sales such as hotels, car rental and travel insurance boosted margins to 12.6% from 11.8%, taking them closer to the company’s target of 15%. Operating expenses rose to £17m from £10.2m, primarily due to the effect of Travelbag, the long-haul specialist ebookers acquired in January this year, on the enlarged business.
Commenting on the company’s results, Dinesh Dhamija, CEO e-bookers plc said:“We have seen a strong period of trading in October. We have significantly strengthened both our management team and technology during the quarter and look forward to the future with confidence”.
e-bookers said the growth in non-air sales had been helped by the strengthening of its management team in this area over the last quarter, with the appointment of the following: Chris Sherlock, formerly responsible for car rental at Air Miles; ex-Mondial Assistance head of UK business Simon Powell to lead the insurance department; Alamo National’s director of global sales Kevin Hall; Yashish Dahiya as head of CRM and Obi Nwosu as head of e-solutions.
Philip Dale, formerly CIO of e-bookers has left the company after only a few months to ‘pursue other opportunities’. e-bookers refused comment on this matter.
e-bookers added it had seen strong sales during the quarter to Asia and Australia, including travellers to the Rugby World Cup, and that Travelbag had delivered ‘very encouraging growth sales growth’, as a result of its conversion to online sales channels. By October, 44% of Travelbag’s bookings were internet-based compared with 16% at the time of its acquisition.
Looking to the current quarter, e-bookers said October had seen a strong period of trading, with Travelbag’s bookings up 58% on the same month of last year, driven by an increase in Australia sales.
e-bookers believes that it is very well positioned for future growth and profitability.