Despite issuing a statement to employees and the press on 19 September suggesting a potential rescue deal was in the offing, Wrightbus slipped into administration on 25 September. The demise of the group means that more than 1,200 jobs will be lost in a clear blow to the economy in Ballymena and Northern Ireland.
The earlier statement said: “We want to assure you that this is hopefully good news for everyone. We are now in a race to complete a final deal with credible bidders.”
However, it is understood that two potential bidders withdrew the following day and Deloitte, which was leading the search for a new investor to rescue the company, has been appointed as administrators.
The initial search for a new investor, led by Deloitte, was formally announced in July when the company issued a statement saying: “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.”
The company’s stance was backed by local MP Iain Paisley Jr who raised the issue in the House of Commons and sought the prime minister’s personal intervention, given that he had had a strong relationship with the group from his role as London mayor.
The reported reason for the eventual failure at Wrightbus was a severe cash flow crisis in funding new technologies, inevitably worsened by the depressed market for UK bus orders, but perhaps exacerbated by the demands of maintaining the international expansion that had been a key part of the group’s strategy in recent years.
In its most recent published accounts, the group reported a loss of £1.7million in 2017 on a turnover of £227million.