Business review of the year - NOVEMBER

Bombardier confirmed that US firm Spirit will buy its operation in the north. Picture by Niall Carson

Bombardier's Northern Ireland aircraft manufacturing operation has been sold to Spirit AeroSystems in Kansas, one of the world's largest producers of aero-structures, in a £1 billion deal heralded as "great news", ending years of uncertainty around workers' jobs. The Belfast plane-maker, along with operations in Morocco, had been put on the market by its Canadian owners in May 2019 as part of a reorganisation of the business to allow Bombardier to concentrate on trains and business jets.

Primark's application to proceed with its bid to demolish and rebuild what's left of its fire damaged Bank Buildings store was approved by Belfast City Council. According to a report prepared by city planning officials, the demolition and piling work will take around nine months before the construction can eventually begin. It will mean the flagship Primark store is unlikely to reopen until at least 2022.

Ryanair revealed plans to axe more routes from Belfast International Airport from 2020. The Irish budget airline already cut seven routes from its 2019 winter operation at Aldergrove. The budget carrier previously operated 14 routes from the airport during summer months. Just nine routes featured on its provisional summer schedule, with flights to Barcelona and Faro apparently dropped. The airline blamed the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max aircraft, claiming it has forced it to cut a number of loss-making routes.

The head of the investment trust that bought the Sprucefield Retail Park has said the ship has sailed on a John Lewis store at the site. Real estate investment trust NewRiver confirmed its £40m acquisition in November. It came just five years after previous owners Intu paid £70m for the five massive units close to Lisburn.

Property investment firm Wirefox moved on a £3.7m deal for the former War Memorial Building on Belfast's Waring Street. The 90,000 sq ft building was earmarked for a £5m hotel by Signature Living, fronted by Liverpool-based entrepreneur Lawrence Kenwright. But the company, which is also behind the long-delayed George Best Hotel in Belfast, ran into financial difficulties during 2019 and moved to sell off a number of its assets as frustrated investors rounded on Kenwright.

PwC announced plans to create 600 jobs in Belfast, taking its workforce in the city to 2,900. The financial services giant will recruit the new staff from a £4.4m graduate training project over five years. Every participant is guaranteed a chance at a job with PwC's Operate division. The financial services firm anticipates that it will recruit four-in-five.

Belfast businessman Terry Cross officially unveiled his £15 million whiskey and gin venture in Co Down. The Hinch Distillery, backed by £1.9m from Invest NI, is set to create up to 42 jobs at a 30,000 sq ft facility between Belfast and Ballynahinch when it opens in 2020.

The scale of the Wrights Group's debt was laid bare in a report. Apart from Invest NI, to whom it owed £2.5m, it seems likely its creditors will only get back a tiny fraction - if any - of their outstanding money. A progress report from administrator Deloitte revealed that the bus-builder owes more than £60m creditors, which includes £38.1m due to Bank of Ireland, a secured creditor.

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