OVER 1,300 jobs at Wrightbus at Galgorm are at risk with the firm set to go into administration this week, Sky News reported on Tuesday evening.
Sky News said it had learnt that the company is expected to formally appoint Deloitte as administrator following weeks of talks with potential buyers.
Sky News said sources close to one of the bidders said on Tuesday evening that the appointment of Deloitte was “almost certain” to happen within 24 hours, putting about 1300 jobs at risk.
The news will represent another devastating blow to Ballymena’s manufacturing sector with the prospects of Wrightbus being salvaged in its current form now understood to be remote, Sky News said.
Ballymena was hit badly in recent years when JTI Gallaher and Michelin closed with the loss of thousands of jobs.
In the last month, Wrightbus has held talks with potential buyers including Darren Donnelly, a local transport entrepreneur; Jo Bamford, a member of the JCB-founding family; and Weichai, a Chinese industrial group.
Wrightbus counts Transport for London (TfL) and Volvo among its most significant biggest customers.
The Routemasters commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his tenure as Mayor of London which became known as ‘Boris Buses’ because of their distinctive look, are made by Wrightbus.
Sky News revealed in July that Wrightbus had hired Deloitte, the professional services firm, to court potential buyers after a financial downturn that has left it facing heavy losses.
Annualised losses are currently running to approximately £15m, and the company may need a capital injection of at least £30m, an insider told Sky News in July.
Wrightbus has had a presence in Ballymena for decades.
Sir William Wright, who founded the company with his father in 1946, was knighted in last year’s New Year Honours list for services to the bus industry and the UK economy.
In its current form, Wright Group became the world’s first developer of a hybrid-electric double-decker bus in 2006.
Wright Group, which also counts the Kowloon Motor Bus company in Hong Kong among its big export customers, has already been forced into making redundancies.
In June last year, it said it was axing 95 jobs across its operations in a move which angered union representatives at Unite.
That followed an identical round of cuts three months earlier.
In addition to its bus-making unit, Wright Group encompasses a chassis design arm, EN-Drive.
Sky News said Wrightbus could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.