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Wrightbus rescue hopes take blow amid claim bid has fallen through

PA Media logoPA Media 10/10/2019 By David Young, PA
a group of people standing in a parking lot: Workers wait for news in the rain (David Young/PA) © Provided by The Press Association Workers wait for news in the rain (David Young/PA)

The fate of troubled bus builder Wrightbus hangs in the balance after a former owner said a deal to buy the company was off.

Jeff Wright, who owns the factory premises, said it was “deeply regrettable” that a prospective sale had not been completed for the administration-hit operation.

English industrialist Jo Bamford, son of JCB chairman Lord Bamford, was bidding for the company.

Despite Mr Wright’s statement on Thursday morning, officials from the Unite union told workers waiting in the rain outside the Ballymena plant that the process was not dead yet.

a red car in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, sitting in a new London bus during a tour of Wrightbus factories in Ballymena and Antrim (Paul Faith/PA) © Provided by The Press Association Boris Johnson, then mayor of London, sitting in a new London bus during a tour of Wrightbus factories in Ballymena and Antrim (Paul Faith/PA)

They claimed Mr Bamford was still considering his position.

The company, well known for building London buses, was placed into administration last month with the loss of 1,200 jobs.

The firm struggled following a downturn in demand for buses in the UK.

The sale has been complicated by the fact that the Wrightbus factory is under separate ownership from the business itself and therefore not controlled by the administrators.

a yellow construction truck parked in a parking lot: JCB vehicles (Rui Vieira/PA) © Provided by The Press Association JCB vehicles (Rui Vieira/PA)

Mr Wright, who controls the premises, insisted he had been willing to sell the factory and associated lands but claimed the issue of dispute involved unrelated farmlands belonging to his family.

“The failure by Mr Bamford’s Ryse Hydrogen company to complete the deal to purchase Wrightbus is deeply regrettable especially after the exhaustive efforts all of us involved have gone to in providing every possible support,” he said.

a group of people walking in the rain: Workers still hope their jobs can be saved (David Young/PA) © Provided by The Press Association Workers still hope their jobs can be saved (David Young/PA)

Mr Wright said it was “disingenuous” to suggest his family were creating barriers over the land holdings.

“For the record the entire premises at Glagorm including the factory, fixtures and fittings as well as the land was agreed to be made available to all bidders, either to lease or purchase,” he said.

Mr Wright said the issue was over unrelated additional farmlands owned by his family.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: File pic of Wrightbus workers and families at Ballymena Showgrounds (Liam McBurney/PA) © Provided by The Press Association File pic of Wrightbus workers and families at Ballymena Showgrounds (Liam McBurney/PA)

He added: “I hope that Deloittes (administrators) have not been side-tracked by the Bamford engagement and can now put their energies into delivering a deal by working with the remaining bidders to secure the future of Wrightbus and the jobs in Ballymena.”

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley had earlier urged all parties to put their shoulder to the wheel to get the deal done.

“The situation is very much in the balance,” he said.

“There’s no second chances here – you can’t do this again on Friday or Saturday – this is the decision day.”

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He told BBC Radio Ulster: “Either it’s the continuation of the building of the best buses produced in the world, or it’s the end of bus building in Ballymena.

“And it’s critical and everyone needs to come together and put their shoulder to wheel to get this over the line one way or the other.”

However, Mr Wright criticised the role played by Mr Paisley, claiming his interventions had been “unhelpful to say the least”.

“Mr Paisley would be well advised to leave the business of dealmaking to the professionals at Deloittes (administrators),” he said.

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