Given that we still don't know enough about the coronavirus, is this a case of overoptimism? Whatever happens, an online player like Lastminute.com is probably more resilient than asset-heavy travel companies.
The parent company of online travel agency Lastminute.com believes that travel demand across its European business could start to bounce back by May.
Like most tourism-focused companies, LM Holding saw a significant drop-off in demand during the course of 2020 (see below). This has accelerated over the past couple of weeks as European countries introduced measures to try and contain the coronavirus outbreak.
But having looked at what has happened in China, the group believed that the disruption should only last a couple of months.
“We expect that people will start again to book holidays and vacation in May, June, to arrive to a normal level in July and August,” Marco Corradino, CEO of Lastminute.com, said on a call with analysts on Thursday.
As an online business, Corradino also expects the company to benefit from the fact that most people will be stuck at home during the coming months.
“As a pure digital player, we will be in a better position than traditional retailers because the majority of the people will move all the bookings to online bookings because basically they are at home,” he said.
Of course, this optimism relies on hotels and airlines still being around to capitalize on any resurgence in demand — something that at the moment is far from guaranteed.
LM Holding has offices across Europe and has had to switch to remote working as the likes of France and Italy have moved into a lockdown phase.
The company expects to receive some support in terms of labor costs from various countries, but at the same time it’s looking to reduce working hours.
Unlike some travel companies with high fixed costs, LM Holding’s are mostly variable, giving it some flexibility in a time of crisis. It said it had more than $107 million (€100 million) in cash available to fund the business as well as an unspecified but “significant” amount of credit.
LM Holding owns online travel agency brands such as Lastminute.com, Volagratis and Weg.de. It also operates in the metasearch sphere under the Jetcost and Hotelscan names. The business is split across a number of mainly European markets, with the biggest being the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.
LM Holding had been exploring a possible sale of a stake in the business at the start of the year, but like so many other deals across the world, this is now not a priority.
Sadly for LM Holding, current events are overshadowing its 2019 performance, which looks to have been an improvement over the previous year (the full audited report won’t be available until the end of March).
Net profit almost trebled to $25.7 million (€23.9 million) with revenue up 19.9 percent to $365.1 million (€337.8 million). Most of the growth came from the online travel agency part of the business, which is where the company makes the bulk of its money.
Dynamic packages and flights were both well above their 2018 levels.
Photo credit: An image from a recent Lastminute.com campaign. The parent company is optimistic about a bounceback in demand later this year. LM Holding