The Number rings up the wrong figures

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The Independent Online

The Company behind the 118 118 directory inquiries service, advertised by a 1970s-style athletic duo, made a £17m loss in 2003, its first year of operation.

The Company behind the 118 118 directory inquiries service, advertised by a 1970s-style athletic duo, made a £17m loss in 2003, its first year of operation.

New documents filed at Companies House show that The Number UK generated sales of £36.5m in 2003 but the costs of setting up call centres and its heavy advertising budget plunged the business into a £17m loss. Chris Moss, the former Orange mobile phone executive who joined The Number as chief executive, was paid £1.7m in the same year.

A spokesman for the company said, however, that costs had been significantly reduced during 2004 and that it had made an operating profit of "between £5m and £10m". No other details on its 2004 trading were available.

The 118 118 business is owned by the privately held US company, InfoNXX, whose largest shareholder is the Tisch family, a clan of wealthy property magnates. The most recent filing shows that the directory inquiries business, which employs nearly 1,000 people, is supported by $50m (£27m) of debt provided by Bank of America, including a $20m loan and a $30m credit facility.

Since BT stopped using the 192 number for inquiries in August 2003, call volumes have increased substantially, according to The Number's accounts. The spokesmansaid it now had 45 per cent of the market compared with BT's 35 per cent.

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