First Ecom.com - a start-up which generated US$2,600 in revenues last year - has denied wasting investors' cash after senior executives were spotted travelling by helicopter to Chek Lap Kok airport from Central. According to sources, an unidentified key shareholder in the company witnessed First Ecom's chairman boarding the helicopter and was apparently angered by what he saw as a case of extravagant spending by a start-up which has yet to make a profit. He complained to First Ecom's investor relations department and, after receiving no reply, to the company's investment bankers in the United States. A helicopter trip for a group of six or more would have cost the loss-making company - which provides online payment processing services - about HK$20,000, according to Hong Kong Helicopter Services. This would be just less than the revenues First Ecom generated in the whole of 1999. Besides costing 40 times more than the Airport Express, the helicopter ride also would have taken longer. Taking into account embarking, disembarking and transfer from the Business Aviation Centre to the airport terminal building, the trip takes about 45 minutes by helicopter. First Ecom denied the helicopter trip was evidence of indiscriminate use of investor cash. Company officials said the trip in question was one of a few exceptional occurrences. 'We won't make a habit of this,' investor relations manager Cody Cain said. He said the trip was for a group of bankers who were visiting the company in Hong Kong and were on tight schedules. 'We had to make sure that they could make their flight schedules,' Mr Cain said. He said First Ecom was prudent with its cash and was not facing any financial troubles, despite generating minimal revenues. 'Our burn rate is very much under control,' Mr Cain said. 'We can operate at the current rate for another 2.5 years without any revenues.' Spokesman Philip Baldwin said he could only recall the company making one helicopter trip, and said its chairman had not been travelling alone when he bumped into the disgruntled investor. 'He was accompanied by five or six other individuals,' Mr Baldwin said. The spokesman also defended the response of its investor relations department to the investor's complaint. After complaining to First Ecom's US bankers, the investor received an explanation from the department, promising the trip would be a one-off occurrence. 'We get thousands of inquiries from investors every day,' Mr Baldwin said. 'We try to deal with them as soon as we can.' He said the company had US$30 million in cash and no corporate debt. Last week, the Bank of Bermuda exercised warrants to purchase shares in the company, providing First Ecom with an additional US$7.8 million in cash.