Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus insists it is financially robust despite 19% drop in profits

By Margaret Canning

Ballymena-based Wrightbus - one of Northern Ireland's biggest manufacturers - has reported a 19% decline in pre-tax profits to £11.7m.

Sales at parent company Wrights Group Ltd, which employs 1,552 people, were also down 7% to £279m.

Its results revealed payment of a special £4m dividend to the parent company "to fund its commitment to Christian, evangelical and charitable activities".

The company, best known for building the so-called Boris Bus for Transport for London, recently announced a recruitment freeze, blaming challenging global and local conditions in the bus market.

A strategic report filed with the firm's results said that it would continue to ensure it remained competitive through cutting costs.

The results filed at Companies House also showed that the business spent £6m on research and development during 2015, down from £8m.

The latest results were calculated on a 12-month basis - compared to a 15-month basis for its previous results.

The report said that on a comparative basis, sales between 12-month periods were up 16%.

Directors added that the company was "financially robust and commercially financed".

The results came as a Markit manufacturing survey of UK manufacturers showed that the sector enjoyed its fastest rebound in 25 years during August.

Pre-tax profits at subsidiary Wrightbus Ltd were down by 34% to £4.3m, and sales were down by 10% to £249m.

Company co-founder William Wright was a vocal supporter of Brexit ahead of June's referendum, but the company's report made no comment on any impact on sales from the vote to leave the EU.

But the Wrights Group Ltd report did say there was uncertainty due to the prospect of the Bus Services Bill in the UK, which could impact bus services in Great Britain.

It added: "The outlook for 2016 remains positive, although with some uncertainties surrounding the outcome of the pending Bus Services Bill in the UK, and its consequential impact on the provision of bus services for the various operators. Volume demand is likely to come under pressure through."

The company also said it would continue to work closely with major bus groups in the UK and Europe and develop "strategic alliances" with manufacturers Volvo and Daimler.

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson - now Foreign Secretary - visited the company's premises earlier this year to confirm an order for 195 double-decker buses from Wrightbus, on top of earlier orders for 805 buses.

In July the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the firm was in talks over a major order with the Kowloon Motor Bus Company in Hong Kong.

Belfast Telegraph