Dial-a-Cab may take fresh route to drive for AIM

Central London's largest black taxi firm, Dial-a-Cab, announced yesterday that it was considering ditching its friendly society status in favour of becoming a plc and floating on the Alternative Investment Market. The conversion and float would mean free "windfall" shares worth a minimum of pounds 3,500 for all 1,628 member drivers, according to Dial-a- Cab's chairman, Brian Rice.

Mr Rice said the recent spate of building society conversions to plc status had "helped to focus our minds". He said the main reason for the change would be to release value built up by drivers who had spent years working for Dial-a-Cab.

"We have approached the City advisers English Trust with our conversion proposals and they have told us that each member would get at least pounds 3,500 and possibly substantially more," Mr Rice said. English Trust is a firm of corporate advisers based in Charterhouse Square, London.

Dial-a-Cab was founded in 1953 as a friendly industrial provident society, or a co-operative. Mr Rice said that all members have to buy one share in the society for pounds 50 when they join, and then they sell the share back to the Society for just pounds 50 when they leave, however long they have worked for the operation.

"We have always been looking at ways to release value in the society for our members. It seems to be a bit of an anomaly to get pounds 50 back, however much profit you have built up," Mr Rice said.

The chairman wants to put the proposals to the society's next annual general meeting in November.

"I think in the main the vast majority of members would be in favour [of conversion]," he said.

"Giving people shares in Dial-a-Cab would also be a good way to incentivise the members."

Earlier this year the other big London black-taxi firm, Computer Cab, proposed to float on AIM, but instead ended up selling an 80 per cent stake to overseas investors in Singapore and Australia.

Dial-a-Cab made net profits of pounds 613,000 for the year ended 31 August 1996, and is expected to make around pounds 800,000 for 1996/97.

"We're reasonably in the black," Mr Rice added.