Online bucket shop lastminute.com is on the brink of striking a deal to offer its internet service to Japanese consumers.
The group will introduce the lastminute.com business through a joint venture with the second and third largest travel agents in Japan.
The proposed joint venture, which is in the final phase of negotiation, comes just months before football`s World Cup begins in Japan.
Chief executive Brent Hoberman said: “We are excited about this opportunity to enter the second largest internet market in the world.”
He believed European customers also stood to benefit from increased availability of offers from the Far East.
The Kinki Nippon Tourist Company and Nippon Travel Agency will package exclusive travel products for the joint venture.
They will also second senior management and staff to the joint venture company, while the parties have agreed online marketing through their respective internet sites.
Mr Hoberman said both travel firms - due to merge under the Kinki Nippon brand in January 2003 - offered access to extensive inventories.
He added: “We feel the new joint venture will be well positioned to create a successful lastminute.com business.”
Lastminute.com, which offers consumers opportunities to acquire airline tickets, hotel rooms and other tickets, already has operations across Europe as well as in Australia and South Africa. The joint venture is being coordinated by Mitsubishi Corporation and its MC Capital Fund.