Wrights Group increases revenue but warns of future 'uncertainties'
TURNOVER at Ballymena bus manufacturer Wrights Group accelerated last year reaching £276 million for 2015.
The figure was 16 per cent up on the previous 12 months and provided profits before tax of £11.7m.
The company last month told staff it planned to freeze recruitment.
In his strategic report filed with annual accounts at Companies House, company chairman Mark Nodder said the group was "continuing to implement cost reduction initiatives and will continue its drive for greater operational efficiency and a low cost, flexible supply chain".
Company owner William Wright was the only senior business figure in the north to come out in favour of the UK leaving the European Union.
Notes with the firm's accounts do not make any reference to Brexit but does say Wrights would focus on building its business beyond the EU.
"The group is committed to continue to strengthen key business relationships with the major bus operating groups and component suppliers in the UK and Europe and further developing strategic alliances in other international markets with both Volvo and Daimler, in particular," said Mr Nodder.
He said the outlook for 2016 was positive but with "some uncertainties surrounding the outcome of the pending bus services bill in the UK, and its consequential impact on the provision of bus services for the various operators, volume demand is likely to come under pressure throughout the year".
The bill proposes franchising powers for local authorities in England which the government said will allow them to operate similar to Transport for London.
Currently services outside London are dominated by a small number of big providers such as First and National Express.
The statement continued: "We fully recognise the importance to our customer base of delivering high quality buses, to the specification required, on time and supporting these vehicles in the field through an improved after care service. We will therefore continue to invest in our manufacturing processes, after sales support and reliability engineering functions to achieve these objectives."
In August, staff at Wrightbus were told of an employment freeze due to the company facing "a number of challenges in both the local and overseas markets".
The company's payroll increased to 1,741 people on average last year (from 1,552) making the wage bill almost £52.5 million.
Meanwhile, payment - including pension contributions - to directors roughly doubled reaching more than £2.3m.
The Wrights Group is ultimately owned by the Cornerstone Group to which it paid £4m "to fund its commitment to Christian, evangelical and other charitable activities".
The firm makes buses for customers across the world and has facilities as far away as Singapore and India.
Earlier this year, it received a £62m order from Transport for London (TfL) for 195 of the iconic Routemaster double-decker buses.
It will complete a delivery of 1,000 so-called Boris buses to the UK capital.