Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus takeover talks suspended, claims Paisley

DUP MP Ian Paisley with Boris Johnson at Wrightbus factory in 2016
DUP MP Ian Paisley with Boris Johnson at Wrightbus factory in 2016
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Talks between Ballymena manufacturing firm Wrightbus and potential buyers have stalled, according to an MP.

It is understood up to 1,400 jobs at the firm are now at risk as the company could fall into administration as early as next week.

Speaking to the BBC, DUP MP Ian Paisley said negotiations between Wrightbus and two bidders were suspended yesterday.

Wrightbus could neither confirm or deny the reports.

Chinese company Weichai and UK entrepreneur Jo Bamford, whose father owns the machinery equipment firm JCB, had been linked to talks.

It is reported that Wrightbus needs a cash injection of around £30m to stay in business, with its parent company, Wrights Group, hiring professional services firm Deloitte in July to advise on talks with potential investors.

But Mr Paisley said: "My understanding is that the talks not only continue, but that the negotiations continues. It has been expressed to me that there is great frustration that they haven't been able to seal a deal. It appears to be one of those moments when everything is very close, but yet so far.

"I think that spells out the frustration of those who are involved in this - that they see a deal, that they see the parameters of a deal, but they just can't get it to land."

Yesterday evening, Wrightbus said: "The board of Wrights Group is working hard to ensure the long-term future of the company and its workforce."

When news of Wrightbus's financial difficulties broke earlier this year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would do "everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company".

Wrightbus built the famous London Routemaster bus - dubbed the "Boris bus" - and blamed a lack of orders for the downturn.

The most recent accounts for Wrights Group show a pre-tax profit of around £1.5m in 2017, a drop from £10.7m the previous year.

Earlier this month, Northern Ireland businessman Darren Donnelly, who founded Toomebridge-based articulated trailer manufacturer Retlan Group along with his father, confirmed he was in discussions regarding purchasing Wrightbus.

However days later, he pulled out of the running.

It looked as though a takeover deal was close to being completed on Thursday, when Wrightbus management told staff final negotiations were taking place.

"We have an update for you all today and as we have done throughout, are seeking to keep you informed at each stage of this process," they said.

"We want to assure you that this is hopefully good news for everyone.

"We are now in a race to complete a final deal with credible bidders."

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