Belfast Telegraph

Craigavon business park plan launched by aircraft seat maker Thompson Aero

Thompson Aero looking at £40m premises for partners

Expansion: Andres Budo
Expansion: Andres Budo
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Chinese-owned airline seat manufacturer Thompson Aero Seating has launched a bid to construct a new £40m industrial park in Craigavon.

The Portadown company, which employs 1,500 people, has notified officials of its plan to build up to 20 units.

Thompson Aero, which makes business-class seats for airlines such as Lufthansa and Delta, was acquired by state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China three years ago.

It comes amid reports linking Chinese giant Weichai with a potential investment in troubled Ballymena busmaker Wrightbus.

It could become the third Northern Ireland firm to draw investment from China after CIMC's 2016 takeover of SDC Trailers.

Thompson Aero chief executive Andres Budo told Belfast Telegraph sister publication Ulster Business this month that the firm will consolidate its five existing sites into one.

He said the 350,000 sq ft production facility will be open by 2021.

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Mr Budo said it would help the business grow its workforce to around 1,700. He explained that the firm is eyeing up a new industrial park venture.

"We are going to have additional internal capabilities. That will be roughly 350,000 sq ft with the possibility of having an industrial park where key suppliers can set up to support us. They will have the ability to land on our industrial park," he said.

In early July, Thompson Aero Seating submitted a pre-planning application notice (PAN) for a major new manufacturing, assembly, research and testing facility on a 100-acre site close to Craigavon's retail hub.

The area between the Mandeville Road and Knockmenagh Road is located near the Tesco superstore in Craigavon.

Alongside new offices, marketing space and an employee well-being centre, the development will entail new roads, infrastructure and an electricity substation.

The PAN indicates that the new Thompson facility will be around 32,000 sqm (345,000 sq ft).

Now the airline seat manufacturer has submitted a second pre-planning application notice in respect of what appears to be a new business park on the eastern section of the site.

It would see up to 20 separate class B-type units built over 50 acres, ranging from light and general industrial to storage and distribution premises.

The company has said the total floorspace could eventually exceed half a million square feet.

Industry monitor Construction Information Services Ireland has estimated the value of the project at around £40.6m.

More details on the plans will be placed on public display during a consultation event in Portadown.

This event was to take place next Wednesday but has been postponed.

In its latest published accounts last September, Thompson Aero said it doubled its turnover from £52m to £105m in the year to December 31, 2017.

Pre-tax profits rose from £4.5m to £10.7m over the same period.

Earlier this month, Mr Budo said the business remains on course to double its sales again to around the £220m mark.

Belfast Telegraph

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