Page last updated at 12:36 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Taxi exports boosted by low pound

By Steven Duke
Business reporter, BBC News

John Bradley
John Bradley's export business benefits from the falling pound

"I can't wait for 2009 - bring it on," is not a phrase you hear from many company owners in the current economic climate.

But John Bradley is confident his business exporting old London taxis to Europe, America and the Middle East will thrive in the coming months.

Standing in a gravel car park, surrounded by fields in the middle of Bedfordshire, Mr Bradley points to a few of the two dozen cabs parked up.

"That one's going out to Spain, another one there going to Dubai. One to Germany and another to Australia," he says.

Benefit of pound weakness

His company - London Taxi Exports - is being helped by the current weakness in the value of the pound against currencies such as the euro and the American dollar.

In the past two months alone, the pound has lost 12% of its value against the euro.

London taxis are better bargains for foreign buyers
London taxis are better bargains for foreign buyers

It means his cabs are becoming cheaper to overseas customers.

"The orders are looking good for us. With the pound in its current condition, roll on next year," he says with enthusiastic glee.

The UK economy is expected to shrink by around 1% in 2009, according to the Treasury's official forecasts.

But one of the few areas where growth may be expected is from exporters thanks to the weak currency.

"UK exporters will clearly be helped by the falling pound," notes Howard Archer, economist at Global Insight.

Buying British

In 2007, Britain sold 368bn worth of goods and services overseas.

And while exports in services has boomed in recent years, it's goods that continue to make up the majority - some 60% - of the UK's exports.

UK EXPORTS 2007
Chemicals - 37.4bn
Cars - 24.2bn
Oil and gas - 22.7bn
Food and drink - 10.6bn
Underwear - 892m
Wines - 209m
Bicycles - 64m
source: ONS

Britain might sell more abroad thanks to the falling currency, but economists fear the pick-up will be too little to dissipate the economic storm looming.

"Exporters will not prevent the UK's recession from worsening over the coming months," warns Paul Dales of Capital Economics, "They will not save the day."

The problem is, it's not a UK problem - it's global.

"Although the lower pound has made British products significantly more competitive in world markets, activity in those markets is very weak," Mr Dales stresses.

Howard Archer also fears Britain's key export markets are suffering their own turmoil, and demand may be tepid, even at record low prices.

"Both the US and eurozone economies are expected to contract during the rest of 2008, and decline significantly in 2009," he says.

Back in Bedfordshire, Mr Bradley continues to buy London's unwanted cabs.

And while the UK economy contracts, he is hoping to grow, and he's even put in planning permission to expand his workshop.

"I think we're going to get busier. We shipped one cab off to Hungary this morning, and I had a new enquiry from Germany.

"I don't mind the weak pound at all - except for when I go on holiday to France," he says with an almost Gallic shrug of the shoulders.

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