Business

Wrightbus sale confirmed - now axed workers must reapply for their jobs

The deal to save bus-builder Wrightbus in Ballymena has been signed off by the administrators
Gary McDonald Business Editor

WORKERS at Wrightbus in Ballymena who were laid off when the company crashed into administration last month are facing an anxious wait to see if they'll get their jobs back and lift tools again.

A deal for English industrialist Jo Bamford, son of JCB chairman Lord Bamford, to buy the business and its assets was ratified yesterday by Deloitte, who have been running the company's affairs since September 25, when 1,200 people were laid off.

Bamford Bus Company - which was incorporated exactly a week before Wrightbus collapsed - has paid an undisclosed sum to buy the business and assets of Wrights Group Ltd, Wrightbus Ltd, Wright En-Drive Ltd and Metallix Ltd, with an option to acquire the international division of Wright Group.

The 60 original staff retained by the joint administrators have transferred to Bamford Bus Company under the terms of the agreement.

But the new owners say they are "currently determining the size and composition of the workforce required for its future plans", and aren't saying now many of the former Wrightbus workers might be re-hired.

Buta Atwal, a former senior JCB executive, who has been appointed chief executive, said: "Recruitment will begin over the coming weeks.

"We are excited about the prospect of recruiting a world-class calibre of people to the business."

He said that as bus transport looks to decarbonise, there was growing demand for market leaders in this field.

"We must now focus on that opportunity and work hard as a team to move forward and rebuild this great business."

Mr Bamford had previously expressed an interest in acquiring Wrightbus, famous for building London buses and whose roots go back to 1946.

But there had been a major stumbling block around associated lands owned by Jeff Wright, son of the company owner Sir William Wright.

And although an agreement to save the company had been agreed in principle more than a week ago, it was only yesterday that joint administrators Michael Magnay and Peter Allen signed it off.

Mr Allen said: “We're delighted to have reached a deal with Bamford Bus Company to secure the future of the business in Ballymena.

“After making extensive efforts to find a buyer, we are confident the new owner represents a bright future for a key employer in Northern Ireland.”

In a separate deal, Jans Composites has also agreed the purchase of Wright Composites Limited for an undisclosed sum.

Three staff members who were retained by the joint administrators have transferred with the business, and again the purchaser is currently determining the size and the composition of the future workforce.

The area's MP Ian Paisley welcomed the conclusion of contract process and the formal sale to Bamford Bus Company.

He said: "This is a new chapter for industry, and I'm delighted that a recruitment company has now been tasked to commence recruitment of experts and engineers.

"I believe a world class group of engineers will now be able to prove their skills with this new company, and I see this as a huge opportunity for industry and commerce in Northern Ireland. Nothing must be put in place to hinder it."

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