London 'black cab' [taxi] maker Manganese Bronze has returned to profit after four years of sustained losses, according to The Times.

The paper said Manganese, led by chief executive Ian Pickering, told investors on Tuesday that pre-tax profits for the year to the end of July were £1.6 million, compared with a loss of £1.2 million in 2004 and losses for each of the previous three years.

Pickering reportedly said the company had completed its turnaround and how had the resources to invest in the development of its core UK taxi business and a clear growth strategy for overseas expansion - including a controlling stake in its North American distributor.

According to The Times, it also said there had been "encouraging" initial results from trials in Mexico and that it was in ongoing talks with the Chinese government for a licence to make and sell taxis in the region.

Manganese also said it would be increasing the level of its investment in product development and capital expenditure this year as it prepares for new regulations governing emissions levels due in 2007 and lines up a move of its main dealership in north London next year, the newspaper added.

Although the company said it has sold 72 more black cabs so far this year than last, at 385, it cautioned that much still depended on the next stage of its new business strategy, dubbed the "London Conditions of Fitness", the newspaper said.

"Taxi sales as in the United Kingdom for the year as a whole will depend on the outcome of the Conditions of Fitness review. As with all UK manufacturers, our production costs are being impacted by the increased costs of raw materials and utilities, which we will seek to mitigate in the year ahead," chairman Tim Melville-Ross said, according to The Times' report.