Wrightbus seeking new investor

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By Michael McHugh, PA

Ballymena-based bus manufacturer Wrightbus has said it is seeking a new investor.

It has brought in consultants Deloitte in a bid to ensure its skilled workforce continued to deliver "cutting edge" transport vehicles to customers near and far.

A trade union leader said the workforce deserved full transparency amid reports of cashflow problems.

A Wrightbus statement said: "As Wrightbus continues to expand its global customer base, there is increased complexity to tailor our products to the climate, territory and operating characteristics of our diverse customer base.

"To strengthen the company's ability to accelerate its development of these new technologies, Deloitte is working with the company to explore the potential of bringing on board an investor.

"This is to ensure that the skills and talents of our Ballymena workforce continue to deliver cutting-edge transport vehicles to our customers near and far.

"The company continues to win new business and this is evident in the recent uptake of our zero emission fuel cell vehicles bolstering a strong 2019 order book."

Wrightbus has been a hugely profitable company in the past and based its business model on producing low-emissions vehicles.

When Boris Johnson was mayor of London he announced a lucrative order to produce the capital's latest fleet of buses.

Unite the Union regional officer George Brash said the union has recently held meetings with the Department of Infrastructure, attended by official job creation agency Invest NI.

He said: "Wrightbus is a major employer, and reports that the company is seeking new investors have given rise to concerns among the workforce and the wider Ballymena community.

"Unite is seeking an urgent meeting with the company to address the genuine concerns which today's news reports have raised for our members.

"The workforce in Wrightbus deserve full transparency."

Meanwhile, Linwoods informed employees of its intention to close its bakery in Northern Ireland.

This follows an ongoing review of its business model and in response to a significant and long-term decline in market demand which has resulted in margins being severely depressed.

Linwoods' Monaghan Road headquarters in Armagh will be reduced by approximately 70 full-time employees.

The company has 140 full-time employees in Northern Ireland and operates across two sites in County Armagh.

Linwoods is a family business which began 60 years ago as a small grocery shop.

In 2002 the company diversified and added health foods to its bakery and dairy business.

Linwoods now exports its health food products across the UK and Europe.

Linwoods Health Foods will not be affected by Tuesday's announcement.

John Woods, joint managing director, said: "This is a sad day for the company as we let go of one of the cornerstones of our business, which has been integral to building the Linwoods' brand.

"Our bakery team has worked incredibly hard and we have explored all possible options to avoid these job losses.

"This decision has not been taken lightly. It follows several efforts to find alternative solutions."

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