Co Antrim bus maker Wrightbus 'seeking a buyer'

Ballymena-based Wrights Group is reportedly seeking investors or a buyer

BALLYMENA-based Wrights Group is reportedly seeking investors or a buyer amid cash flow difficulties at the bus manufacturer.

Sky News has reported that the parent company of Wrightbus, which employs around 1,400 people in Northern Ireland, has drafted in professional services firm Deloitte to help attract prospective investors.

A source told the broadcaster that annualised losses at the firm are running to approximately £15 million, and the company may need a capital injection of at least £30m.

The news comes less than a week after the group secured a multi-million-pound order to supply 15 hydrogen-powered double decker buses for Aberdeen City Council.

Wrights Group’s latest accounts, which cover 2017, show a pre-tax profit of £1.5m, down from £10.7m in the previous year. Turnover fell by 14 per cent from £264.4m to £227.2m during the same period.

Last year almost 200 jobs were cut at the Co Antrim business in two separate rounds of redundancies in February and June.

At the time the company said the job losses stemmed from a marked downturn in orders in the home market, including Transport for London, with customers adopting a “wait and see” stance until after the UK leaves the EU market.

In a statement issued yesterday evening Wrights Group said: “As Wrightbus continues to expand its global customer base, there is increased complexity to tailor our products to the climate, territory and operating characteristics of our diverse customer base.

“To strengthen the company’s ability to accelerate its development of these new technologies Deloitte is working with the company to explore the potential of bringing on board an investor. This is to ensure that the skills and talents of our Ballymena workforce continue to deliver cutting-edge transport vehicles to our customers near and far.

“The company continues to win new business and this is evident in the recent uptake of our zero emission fuel cell vehicles bolstering a strong 2019 order book”.

SDLP Ballymena councillor, Eugene Reid said the latest news surrounding Wrightbus is a concern.

“Wrightbus is a significant employer in north Antrim and well beyond with around 1,400 good jobs. News that the company has appointed Deloitte to seek investors or a buyer to resolve cashflow issues will cause some worry among the existing workforce,” he said.

“North Antrim has suffered significant manufacturing job losses at Michelin and JTI over the last number of years, it’s critical that we do all we can to protect, promote and enhance this sector.”

Deloitte declined to comment.

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