Belfast Telegraph

Report Wrightbus in last ditch talks to prevent collapse - bosses confident of deal

Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus is in takeover talks
Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus is in takeover talks
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Reports have emerged bus maker Wrightbus is one week away from collapse.

However, bosses at the Ballymena factory are understood to be involved in talks with a potential buyer and confident of getting a deal to save the company.

Sky News reports Darren Donnelly is in talks with the company’s advisers which have accelerated in recent days amid fading hopes of a £50m takeover by Weichai, a subsidiary of the Chinese company Shandong Heavy Industry.

Sources told the broadcaster that without a rescue deal being concluded by next week, the company could be forced to appoint administrators.

Mr Donnelly and his father John formed the Retlan Group in Toomebridge which went on to become the largest articulated trailer manufacturer in Europe. It was purchased by Chinese firm, CIMC Vehicles, in 2016.

Weichai, which was thought to be interested in taking the entire business - did not rule out a takeover, but admitted it was unlikely. Other potential suitors have also pulled out of the process.

Wrightbus is reported to need a cash-boost of around £30million to keep afloat.

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Visit: Boris Johnson at firm in 2011
Visit: Boris Johnson at firm in 2011

The company which built the famous London Routemaster bus - dubbed the ‘Boris bus’ - blamed a lack of orders for its downturn in fortunes.

In July parent company Wrights Group, which employs around 1,400 people, 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 the previous year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he would do “everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company”.

It is understood company bosses are in the process of reviewing final offers from investors and progressing towards completing a deal.

Final meetings are due to be held with those who have made offers for the family company, founded 73 years ago by Robert Wright and his son William.

On Friday UK manufacturing giant JCB was being linked to a purchase of the company. But a spokesman for JCB said: “I can confirm that it’s not JCB involved in these discussions.”

A business started up by Jo Bamford, the son of JCB company owner Lord Bamford, has previously worked with Wrightbus on converting buses to hydrogen-power. 

One party linked to the Northern Ireland company said directors “are confident in the future of the company and are now in the process of reviewing final offers from investors and progressing towards completing a deal”.

A spokeswoman for Wrightbus said it would not be commenting on the latest stage of talks.

Mr Donnelly could not be reached for comment, while Deloitte declined to comment.

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