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London black taxi cab maker nears end of the road

posted 22 Oct 2012, 14:35 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Oct 2012, 14:37 ]

The makers of London's black taxi say they sought the appointment of administrators after talks to secure funding were unsuccessful.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM   (REUTERS) -  Manganese Bronze, maker of London's black taxi, said it is set to appoint administrators after failing to secure funding needed to survive, putting hundreds of British jobs at risk.

Manganese Bronze, whose taxis have been on British streets since 1948, had been in talks with its largest shareholders, including China's Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd, to secure a last-minute bailout.

Chief Executive John Russell said the company had discussed an injection of "tens of millions" of pounds with parties including the company's two largest shareholders, Geely and Toscafund Asset Management.

Accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers is set to be appointed as administrator.

Earlier this month, the company had said its financial position was unclear after the discovery of a safety defect in its new TX4 model that led to a recall of 400 taxis and a halt to sales.

The recall was the latest in a spate of issues that have plagued the taxi maker which coincided with market share gains by rival Eco City Vehicles's Mercedes Vito taxi.Japan's Nissan Motor Co Ltd is also due to launch its own taxi in Britain.

Manganese Bronze, based in Coventry, in central England, has failed to turn a profit since 2007. It suspended trading in its shares earlier this month.

Britain's Unite union called on the British government to support the firm and protect the 300 UK jobs at risk.

As well as technical difficulties, Manganese has been hit by a weak economy and delays in fulfilling key orders. Manganese Bronze sold 1,502 taxis last year, 9 percent fewer than in 2010.

Earlier this year, it found a 3.9 million pound hole in its accounts causing a delay to the release of its half year results. They were eventually published late last month with the firm reporting a pretax loss of 4.6 million pounds on sales 11 percent lower than the same period a year ago.

Russell said it was still "in dialogue" with Geely after talks over funding broke down last week.