TUI to sell LateRooms website

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Thomson and First Choice owner TUI Group narrowed half-year losses as it said it has put its UK hotel booking website LateRooms up for sale.

The world’s largest tourism business said it planned to sell the online hotel finder, founded in Salford in 1999, by the end of financial year without giving further details.

The group’s losses narrowed to £195.5m in the six months to the end of March, from £244.8m a year ago, in its traditionally weaker winter period.

It said winter sales were 1 per cent up compared to a year ago, with strong holidaymaker bookings in the UK, Germany and the Benelux countries. Average selling prices were also 1 per cent up over the same period.

In December, Thomson and First Choice owner TUI Travel completed a merger with its German parent company to create the world’s largest tour operator.

The tie-up with Germany’s TUI AG, has produced a business with more than 300 hotels, 136 planes and 1,800 shops across Europe selling holidays to 30 million customers in 180 countries.

The group is widely expected to announce later today that to simplify the business it will phase out the Thomson and First Choice brands, along with other European firms it owns, in favour of TUI.

The Thomson brand was established in 1965 by Canadian media baron Roy Thomson.

TUI said its summer holidays are 59 per cent sold, in line with last year. Bookings are 2 per cent up on a year ago, with average selling prices across its key markets up 1 per cent, adding that the UK and Benelux countries were trading well.

It reiterated that it was on track to grow underlying profits by between 10 per cent and 15 per cent this year.

TUI said in the first six months of the year LateRooms generated sales of £22.2m, with an underlying earnings loss of £6.5m.