Taxi phone service costs hit Manganese Bronze

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The Independent Online

Manganese Bronze, which makes London's famous black cabs, yesterday admitted demand for its new, mobile-phone-based, hailing service had been slow as it reported spiralling losses.

Manganese Bronze, which makes London's famous black cabs, yesterday admitted demand for its new, mobile-phone-based, hailing service had been slow as it reported spiralling losses.

The company said just 700 taxi drivers out of some 20,000 in total had signed up to "Zingo", which lets customers ring a number to find the nearest available black cab.

Launching Zingo has cost it £5.5m so far, and the company expects to rack up further losses each month for some time. However, Ian Pickering, the chief executive, is still banking on at least 3,000 taxis eventually offering the service, which costs £1.60 per use.

The company, which was the subject of unwarranted takeover attention for much of the year, reported pre-tax losses for the year to 31 July of £10m against £2.9m 12 months earlier after taking a £7.5m hit on the sale of a components division. Its shares fell 6p to 105.5p.

It said weak demand for new taxis was still holding back black cab sales, hit by London's struggling economy. It sold 2,320 cars last year, 10.8 per cent less than during the previous period. Meanwhile talks are continuing to find a partner to make taxis in China and the company expects to make an announcement shortly.

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