Wrightbus ‘rescue hopes rise as Bamford closes in on deal’

A MEMBER of the industrial dynasty behind JCB is edging closer to a rescue deal for Wrightbus that could save hundreds of jobs, it has been reported.

Sky News said on Wednesday morning it had learnt that Jo Bamford has entered exclusive talks about a transaction, two weeks after the Galgorm-based company appointed Deloitte as administrator.

The move by Mr Bamford, who was among the bidders for Wrightbus before it plunged into insolvency proceedings, threatening 1,300 jobs, will raise hopes that the company has a viable future.

However, the completion of a rescue deal is understood to be contingent upon Mr Bamford reaching agreement with the member of the founding Wright family who owns the factory from which Wrightbus operates.

Negotiations over rental payments were among the major sticking points that prevented a deal being reached before Wrightbus called in administrators.

Sky News reported: ‘Sources said that unless Mr Bamford and Jeff Wright, the factory’s owner, could strike a deal, the latest rescue effort was also at risk of falling apart’.

Deloitte is understood to be determined to resolve the company’s future as quickly as possible, with future customer orders at risk.

If completed, Mr Bamford’s prospective rescue deal would save “hundreds” of jobs, although at least half of Wrightbus’s 1300-strong workforce are unlikely to secure ongoing employment with the company, Sky News said.

None of the parties involved in the talks could be reached for comment on Wednesday, Sky News said.

Trade union Unite said next 48 hours were critical.

Regional officer George Brash said: “Unite understand that negotiations for sale of the company has moved to a point of exclusivity with a single, prospective buyer. The only issue outstanding now is that of the land ownership associated with the factory site.

“Twelve hundred workers’ livelihoods, the living conditions of their families and the entire local economy now hang in the balance. We are in a situation where if the issue of the land is not resolved in the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours then the prospect of safeguarding their future will disappear.

“This is a fight for the future of the Ballymena economy – it is a fight we can win. Politicians now need to come off the sidelines and get behind this workforce to secure that future”, Mr Brash added.

Maureen Morrow, the Mayor of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, told the main monthly meeting in Ballymena this week: “We hope that ongoing negotiations will conclude in a timely manner and lead to a positive outcome for the future.”

She said she had spoken to people who attended a ‘jobs fair’ held in Ballymena in the wake of the Wrightbus news and a number of individuals told her they appreciated what the Council was doing to help.

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