Posted on Wednesday 25 September 2019 by John Mulgrew
Around 1,200 jobs have been lost after Ballymena bus maker Wrightbus entered administration.
The company had been in talks to seek a buyer, with business advisory firm Deloitte being appointed.
But this morning the 73-year-old family-owned firm has now entered administration.
Around 1,200 of the firm's 1,250 employees have now been made redundant.
Unite addressed staff and journalists on Wednesday morning. The union has warned that up to 5,000 workers could be directly, and indirectly, impacted.
Directors at the maker of the so-called 'Boris bus' had been in talks with companies including Chinese giant Weichai and entrepreneur Jo Bamford about a potential sale.
But talks broke down last week, with the amount of rent to be paid on the company's premises believed to be a stumbling block.
Wrightbus, which was co-founded by Sir William Wright, has faced trading difficulties after a downturn in demand for its products.
A spokesperson for the Wright family said: "We are devastated at the news today that the company has been placed in administration by the Wright Group Board. Global changes from diesel to electric in bus technology have caused a sharp decline in demand for buses in the UK. As a shortfall became apparent, one of the steps taken was to move work from our Malaysia facility back to Ballymena to secure jobs here."
"These factors have resulted in significant losses at Wrightbus which our family has been covering for over a year. This was undertaken to both protect the workforce and the engineering expertise in the company. It simply became impossible to sustain that level of support.
"We have worked hard to support the restructuring team based in Wrightbus, and we are confident that a buyer for the business can still be found. We would like to thank the bank for supporting the company over 70 years and in particular the last six months."
"Since it was established in 1946 from a tin shed, Wrightbus has become a world leader in bus manufacture and technology, employing tens of thousands of people. The company has built a culture and tradition of expertise and innovation in the Ballymena area which is recognised across the globe. The production of the world-famous London Routemaster is just one example of the many achievements of the firm and we are hopeful that a new buyer will be found and that work at the factory can continue."
Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, says "news that Wrightbus has entered administration is a devastating blow to the staff, the manufacturing sector across Northern Ireland and particularly damaging to the Ballymena economy".
"Businesses in the supply chain have been doing what they can to support the company over this past year in the hope the business can be saved.
"They to face some very uncertain months as they try to secure the money they are owed and replace the trade they have done with the Wrightbus.
"That won't be easy as there's a significant cooling of demand across the UK economy as Brexit bites and buyers reluctant to make big capital purchases.
"The company have a great product and a very talented workforce. Hopefully the administration process will see the firm put back on to a firm footing.
"But in doing that, it is important to protect the SMEs in the supply chain."
Michael Magnay and Peter Allen of Deloitte were today appointed as joint administrators to Wrights Group Limited, Wrightbus Limited, Wright En-Drive Limited, Wright Composites Limited and Metallix Limited.
Mr Magnay, joint administrator, said: “It is bitterly disappointing for all concerned that despite extensive efforts over recent months it has not been possible to find a buyer who wanted to maintain the business as a going concern.
“We recognise the Companies are crucially important employers in Ballymena, and this will be devastating news for those who worked there, their families and the town, which has already suffered from a number of manufacturing closures in recent years. We will continue to support employees through this difficult time.
“The joint administrators will explore all remaining options for the business and assets, and would encourage any parties with an interest to contact them.”
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Maureen Morrow, expressed her deep sadness following the announcement Wrightbus has entered administration. I am deeply saddened by this announcement and the loss of so many jobs.
“Following requests from elected members, a special council meeting will be held on Tuesday evening at 7pm to discuss the emerging situation.”