Medallion Financial Corp. (NASDAQ: TAXI), a specialty finance company with a leading position servicing the taxicab industry announced that earnings, or net increase in net assets resulting from operations was $2,832,000 or $0.16 per diluted common share in the 2008 fourth quarter.

Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion Financial stated, “We are very pleased with the year’s results, especially given what has been a challenging environment for financial institutions. Underlying our performance is the collateral value we have in our medallion loans. In over 70 years of involvement in the medallion industry, we have experienced zero losses on any taxi medallion loan we have originated in New York City.

Additionally, taxi medallions are one of the few assets that have appreciated in value in 2008, increasing in every one of our operating markets, and have continued that trend thus far in 2009. Prices in 2008 for corporate medallions in New York City increased over 24% and are currently at all-time highs of $750,000 per medallion in March 2009 (see chart above, data here).

The taxi industry is somewhat insulated in this type of economic environment for several reasons from increased fleet utilization due to the influx of manpower from job losses in other industries, to more people riding taxis as corporations cut back on limos and other car services. In addition, our loan to value ratio on our entire medallion portfolio is now under 50%.”

The NYC taxi industry is also insulated very well from competition, since it operates as a cartel with legal restrictions on entry. According to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission, the official name of the NYC Taxi Cartel:

In 1937, the number of taxicab medallions was limited to those that existed at that time. By the late 1940s, this number had settled at 11,787. Since 2003, State and local legislation has allowed the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to sell new medallions, bringing the current total to 13,150 yellow medallion taxicabs operating in New York City. A new medallion is a rare opportunity.

Yes, a rare opportunity to join a cartel with significant barriers to entry. And cartel membership does have its privileges, including above-market rates of return (see chart below). Since January 2004, the price of NYC taxi medallions has increased 2.6 times, while the S&P500 has declined by 28%.

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