Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus en route to more big deals as it triples profits

by Margaret Canning

Ballymena firm Wrightbus, which makes the famous London Routemaster, has said it will continue to aim for market dominance after tripling profits in 2014.

Wrightbus Limited, which employs 1,215 people and is one of Northern Ireland's best-known manufacturers, had sales of £278m during the 15 months to the end of 2014, up from £168m.

And profits more than tripled from £1.4m to £6.5m.

A strategic report accompanying the results, said the firm was "well placed".

It read: "With net assets of £19.7m, low levels of debt and new cash balances of £15.7m, the company remains well placed to take advantage of further business opportunities as and when they arise."

It said the outlook for 2015 was "positive, and management anticipate high levels of turnover and profitability for the incoming year".

And Wrightbus was also spending heavily on research and development, with an outlay of £5.7m during 2014.

The report added: "The company maintains its focus on becoming the market leader for fuel efficient, low emissions, lightweight vehicles."

And in international projects, the manufacturer has worked with firms such as Daimler (India Commercial Vehicles) in Chennai to increase profits.

The strategic report said the firm would continue to forge partnerships with other vehicle businesses.

It won a tender in 2010 to build the London Routemaster - introduced by London Mayor Boris Johnson to replace the much-loathed bendy bus - by working with designer Thomas Heatherwick.

But last month more than 500 vehicles built by Wrightbus had to undergo a £2m refit after passengers in London branded them "saunas" and "cauldrons on wheels".

The designer had originally wanted the windows to open, but was overruled because of claims it would ruin the efficiency of the on-board cooling units.

The 250 buses still on order from Wrightbus are to have the windows fitted in the company's Ballymena factory.

And in the Republic, nearly 100 double-decker buses made by the firm are now on the streets of Dublin as part of a multi-million euro deal with the Republic's National Transport Authority.

Further afield, the company opened a bus body plant in Chennai earlier this year, to launch buses aimed at the growing India market.

The assembly plant has capacity to produce 1,500 vehicles per annum with around 140 workers.

Wrightbus was founded in 1946 by Robert Wright and his son William, who is still very much involved in the family business.

Belfast Telegraph