Belfast Telegraph

Company Snapshot: Wright Group Ltd

By John Simpson

The Wright Group combines several separate companies based in Ballymena and controlled by the Wright family.

The larger company assembles and manufactures passenger buses for national and international buyers. A smaller subsidiary specialises in manufacturing composite components.

The trading figures for 2008-9 show a continuing recovery after a temporary drop in performance in 2006-7. Turnover has reached a new high, nearly double the lower figures earlier in this decade.

The unsatisfactory results in 2006-7 were the consequence of a disruption in production plans as a result of an EU-wide change in the performance specifications for public service buses in terms of changes in emissions regulations. Production schedules were disrupted for six months.

In 2007-8 there was a major |recovery and the group produced an estimated 980 vehicles, compared with only just over 700 in the previous year. Buses manufactured by the group have been sold extensively in Great Britain and also in American, Far Eastern and European markets

The improved trade figures and better operating profits in the last two years have converted into an uplift in the balance sheet value of shareholder’s funds.

At the end of September 2009, shareholder’s funds were nearly 50% better than two years earlier. Most of the post-tax profits were retained within the business, with the exception of a reduced dividend payment of £250,000 in 2008-9.

Employment recovered in 2007-8 after a fall of nearly 10% a year earlier and the higher level of employment was continued into 2009 when an average of 990 people were employed.

Part of the continuing success of the business has been secured by a continuing research and development spending programme each year which has averaged over £2.6m each recent year, totalling £2.9m in 2008-9.

The company expects the market for vehicles in the UK in 2009-10 to be down on previous years and acknowledges that it is looking for export orders to mitigate this market downturn.

The assessment of the company is that, benefiting from the extensive research and development programme, there will be demand for its products to maintain profitability at normal level when the UK market recovers.

Belfast Telegraph