February 25, 2016 / 10:20 PM / in a year

Australia's Cabcharge says H1 profit slump as Uber overtakes

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Cabcharge Australia Ltd, the country's monopoly taxi booking company, said on Friday that first half net profit slumped by more than a fifth as it lost business to ride sharing service Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL].

Net profit was A$24.4 million for the six months to Dec. 31, from A$31.2 million in the previous first half.

Revenue fell 11.8 percent to A$88.6 million, which the company said was the result of new price controls limiting the commission it is allowed to charge. Overall taxi fares grew just 0.3 percent to A$567 million.

For years a favorite with analysts because 97 percent of Australian taxis use its payment system, Cabcharge has been under pressure since Uber joined the market in 2012, quickly building up a reputed one million passengers in a country with a population of 24 million.

Initial efforts by the Sydney-listed incumbent to protect revenue from the software-based Californian disruptor have failed. A campaign to make Uber illegal was unsuccessful and the antitrust regulator blocked Cabcharge's own attempt at introducing a ride-booking app, saying it would be unfair on regional cab companies.

Adding to the rush of fresh competition on Cabcharge, a second locally-based ride sharing application, goCatch, says it has amassed 35,000 drivers.

Some state governments have meanwhile forced Cabcharge to cut the fees it is allowed to charge drivers for its services.

"Despite the regulatory changes, Cabcharge continues to be

a robust and profitable business with both fleet size and payment turnover up during the half," the company said in a statement.

Cabcharge shares have dived nearly 50 percent in the past year, while the broader market has fallen 18 percent, amid concerns about its ability to return to profit growth.

Reporting by Byron Kaye

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