Ballymena firm Wrightbus seeking investors
Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus is courting potential investors amid a financial downturn, it has confirmed.
The firm's parent company Wrights Group, which employs around 1,400 people, has hired professional services firm Deloitte to advise it on talks with potential investors.
Wright Group's most recent accounts show a pre-tax profit of around £1.5m in 2017, a drop from £10.7m in 2017.
A Wrightbus spokesperson said: “As Wrightbus continues to expand its global customer base, there is increased complexity to tailor our products to the climate, territory and operating characteristics of our diverse customer base.
"To strengthen the company’s ability to accelerate its development of these new technologies Deloitte is working with the company to explore the potential of bringing on board an investor.
"This is to ensure that the skills and talents of our Ballymena workforce continue to deliver cutting-edge transport vehicles to our customers near and far. The company continues to win new business and this is evident in the recent uptake of our zero emission fuel cell vehicles bolstering a strong 2019 order book”.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swan said this was "worrying news".
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"Wright Bus in Ballymena has been a valued employer and following the loss of Michelin and JTI would be another body blow to the North Antrim economy," he tweeted.
SDLP Ballymena councillor Eugene Reid said he seeking a meeting with trade union representatives and the management of Wrightbus over the situation.
“Wrightbus is a significant employer in North Antrim and well beyond with around 1400 good jobs. News that the company has appointed Deloitte to seek investors or a buyer to resolve cashflow issues will cause some worry among the existing workforce," he said.
“I’m seeking a meeting with trade union representatives and with the management of the local firm to reassure workers and offer our support for the manufacturing sector in this area.
"North Antrim has suffered significant manufacturing job losses at Michelin and JTI over the last number of years, it’s critical that we do all we can to protect, promote and enhance this sector.”
In June, Wrightbus warned that up to 95 jobs were to be cut, following on from the loss of 95 posts in February, due to a drop in demand for new buses in the UK market.
Speaking at the time, Mark Nodder, the company's then-chairman, said: "There is a good deal of continuing uncertainty - specifically in the UK market - at present, which is causing private and public bus operators alike to delay or postpone their vehicle investment programmes.
"This has a direct impact on production levels at our Ballymena facilities and the announcement that we are making today - difficult and regrettable as it is - is nonetheless necessary to align workforce requirements with our near-term order book."
Wrights Group is one of Northern Ireland biggest exporters and was founded by Sir William Wright, along with his father, in 1946.
Earlier this month, Wrightbus secured a £7.5m deal to build 14 hydrogen-powered buses for Scottish transit company First Aberdeen.
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