Belfast Telegraph

PM has 'will' to help resolve Wrightbus cash flow issues

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley has said he expects a Government led by Boris Johnson will have the will to intervene to offer a solution to cash flow problems at Wrightbus.

The Ballymena coach builder has recruited professional services group Deloitte to help it find new investors.

According to some reports, annualised losses at the Wrights Group are thought to be running at around £15m, with the bus maker seeking a capital investment of at least £30m.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Paisley said: "There is a major cash flow problem that needs to be resolved."

He confirmed that he had already raised the matter with the Prime Minister and his team.

During his double term as Mayor of London, Mr Johnson ordered a total of 1,000 red double-decker Routemaster buses from Wrightbus.

The major order saw him visit the Ballymena factory and meet with the leadership team of the Wrights Group.

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The DUP MP said he believed that the Conservative leader's knowledge of the Co Antrim company will help its case for what he hoped will be "a major intervention".

"Boris is a problem-solving prime minister," he said. "These problems have come up and we're expecting the Government will have the will to solve them.

"A lot of this is to do with will. The skill is definitely there to do it, so we'll see where that goes."

Mr Paisley described efforts over the last nine months to address the cash flow issues at the Wrights Group.

"It needs cash to keep running and to pay its talented workforce," he said.

The Wrights Group, which employs around 1,400 people, said on Tuesday that it has experienced "increased complexity" in adapting its products to the needs of its increasingly global customer base.

The company confirmed that it had sought the help of Deloitte to help find a new investor to "accelerate its development of these new technologies".

Unite said it had held "meaningful discussions with the company" and was working to secure members' jobs and ensure the long-term viability and independence of Wrightbus.

The trade union said redundancies had not been mentioned during the meeting.

A Wrightbus spokeswoman said: "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."

The bus giant announced last October that its pre-tax profits fell by 86% during 2017 after a £37m slump in annual turnover.

Last year also saw the company announce two separate waves of redundancies totalling 190 jobs. It brought the group's workforce down to around 1,400. That compared to the 1,861 workers it had on its books during 2016.

The company has also lost its long-serving chairman and chief executive Mark Nodder after 21 years in April, with no replacement yet announced.

Belfast Telegraph