Chinese engineering company in talks to buy Wrightbus
A MAJOR Chinese engineering company is reportedly the frontrunner in the race to save troubled Ballymena manufacturer Wrightbus.
Weichai, part of state-owned conglomerate Shandong Heavy Industry, is in talks to buy the struggling Co Antrim firm.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the bid from Weichai is in the region of £50 million.
Wrightbus, founded 73 years ago, employs around 1,400 people in Ballymena.
The company, best known for making 1,000 new Routemaster London buses, last month hired consultancy firm Deloitte to find a buyer after it went into the red.
It has also been reported that fellow Chinese company BYD continues to monitor the situation after it was approached by Deloitte advisers. BYD has yet to make a formal offer.
Still owned by its founding family, Wrightbus is one of north Antrim's largest employers. The area has been hit hard by the closure of several manufacturers in recent years including Michelin and Japan Tobacco.
The DUP, which is propping up Boris Johnson's minority Tory government in a confidence-and-supply deal, has previously called on the British government to help.
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley said he had discussed the issue with Mr Johnson before he became prime minister and asked the government to "make a major intervention to try and help this company, as it requires significant help".
Mr Johnson had said the government would do "everything we can" to help save the firm.
A spokesman for Wright Group told the Daily Telegraph that it had not accepted any offer.
"Discussions with a number of potential investors remain ongoing," he said.
Sky News reported that annualised losses at the Wrights Group were currently running at around £15m.