WRIGHTBUS is courting potential buyers, Sky News is reporting today.
Sky News says it has learnt that the Galgorm-based Wright Group, which is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest exporters and employs about 1400 people, has drafted in the professional services firm Deloitte to advise it on talks with prospective investors.
A number of turnaround funds have been approached to canvas their interest in ploughing tens of millions of pounds into the family-owned company, City insiders said on Tuesday.
The status of talks with potential bidders was unclear, although a source close to the process insisted that Deloitte was working on “restructuring” options.
Annualised losses are currently running to approximately £15m, and the company may need a capital injection of at least £30m, the source said, although Wright Group’s most recent accounts recorded a pre-tax profit of about £1.5m, down from £10.7m in 2016.
Possible investors include other players in a transport sector which is facing tough trading conditions, they added.
It is unclear what the prospects are for Wright Group unless it can secure new financial backing.
Sir William Wright, who founded the company with his father in 1946, was knighted in last year’s new year’s 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 Transport for London and the Kowloon Motor Bus company in Hong Kong among its big customers, has already been forced into making redundancies.
Last month, 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.
Mark Nodder, the company’s chairman, said in June: “There is a good deal of continuing uncertainty – specifically in the UK market – at present, which is causing private and public bus operators alike to delay or postpone their vehicle investment programmes.
“This has a direct impact on production levels at our Ballymena facilities and the announcement that we are making today – difficult and regrettable as it is – is nonetheless necessary to align workforce requirements with our near-term order book.”
In addition to its bus-making unit, Wright Group encompasses a chassis design arm, EN-Drive
A spokeswoman for Wright Group declined to comment on the Deloitte-led process, Sky News said.
Deloitte could not be reached for comment, the broadcaster reported.