Taxi firm FreeNow upbeat on 2022 as trip volumes rebound

Irish arm recorded 27% decline in revenues last year due to the coronavirus pandemic

For July to September of this year, volumes were up 7% versus the same period in 2019 and are 3% higher for the current quarter. File photograph: The Irish Times

The Irish arm of Free Now got a significant cash injection last year when its parent opted to forgo a €6 million annual charge, allowing the company to reinvest the money at a critical time for the business.

The taxi-hailing company’s Irish unit recorded a 27 per cent decline in turnover in 2020 to €16 million as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. But the decision by shareholders to do without the annual technology fee enabled it to withstand the impact of the crisis.

Free Now ended last year with pretax profits of €6.4 million, reversing a €2.86 million loss from 2019 which arose due to a big hike in expenditure for its rebrand from MyTaxi. The company’s cash balance rose to €6.06 million from €189,235 while net assets climbed to €9 million from €2.7 million a year earlier, due to restructuring.

Country manager Niall Carson said after a slow start in 2021, due to the third lockdown, business had picked up significantly in the second half and had exceeded pre-pandemic levels. He forecast a record year for the company in 2022, a year that will mark Free Now's 10th anniversary.

READ MORE

“We’ll be well into double-digit growth next year,” said Mr Carson.

“We have been expanding our driver base and have increased our coverage nationwide and I’d be hugely optimistic about 2022,” he added

After a strong start to 2020 with trip volumes up 22 per cent versus 2019, volumes fell by 75 per cent in the April to June period. For the second half of 2020, volumes remained between a third and close to a half lower than in the prior year. Taxi trips were down by more than a half in the first three months of 2021 as a result of the third lockdown but rose in tandem with restrictions being lifted.

Bullish outlook

For July to September of this year, volumes were up 7 per cent versus the same period in 2019 and are 3 per cent higher for the current quarter.

“Last year was all about resilience. This one has been a difference beast altogether,” said Mr Carson. “We’re finishing the year in a really strong position. We rolled out a new brand campaign in September to remind people we were still around.”

Free Now saw a huge dip in revenues from businesses last year with turnover derived from this falling by half to below 10 per cent. Mr Carson expects this to pick up again.

The company has set a target of having at least 50 per cent of electric vehicles by 2025 and Mr Carson said that 20 per cent were now either fully electric or hybrid.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist