China hails black cab production

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The Independent Online

They may be one of Britain's best-known icons, but much of the manufacturing of London's black cabs will henceforth take place in China. Manganese Bronze, the company that makes the taxis, yesterday said it was shedding 60 jobs at its Coventry plant as it announced plans to sell control of the company to Chinese car maker Geely.

The loss-making group said it would place new shares with Geely, which already owns a 20 per cent stake, giving the Chinese manufacturer 51 per cent of the company. London's taxis will continue to be assembled at Coventry, but production of the cabs' chassis and panelling will move to Shanghai, after the company that produced a coating for the cars went out of business.

The group will continue to employ 300 people at its Coventry plant.

The announcement came as Manganese Bronze reported a loss of £7.3m in 2009. The group has suffered as its traditional TX range has faced increasingly stiff competition over the last 18 months from Eco City vehicles, which distributes the Mercedes Vito model. Since launch last year, it has taken a 30 per cent share of the London market.

Analysts at Collins Stewart said that Geely, which is also bidding to buy Volvo, the Swedish vehicle maker owned by Ford, had rescued Manganese Bronze.

"[The placing] would effectively bring in £14m of cash and reduce the group's dependency on stocking loans as a source of capital," they said.

Geely is reported to be considering the proposals.