Wednesday 23 October 2019

Grandson of JCB founder latest to hop on Wrightbus

Interest: Jo Bamford, whose grandfather founded JCB is involved in Wrightbus talks. Photo: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images
Interest: Jo Bamford, whose grandfather founded JCB is involved in Wrightbus talks. Photo: Dave M. Benett/Getty Images

Margaret Canning

The son of the chairman of UK machinery giant JCB has become the latest entrepreneur to be linked with a takeover of troubled manufacturer Wrightbus.

The Ballymena firm behind London's famous 'Boris Bus' has been tipped to go into administration this week if it cannot finalise a deal with a buyer.

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Earlier this week, Northern Ireland businessman Darren Donnelly said he was walking away from talks over a possible purchase of Wrightbus.

Now it has emerged that Jo Bamford - a grandson of JCB founder Joseph Bamford and son of JCB chairman Anthony Bamford - is involved in talks.

Mr Bamford's hydrogen fuel company Ryse Hydrogen has already worked with Wrightbus on a contract with Transport for London to convert buses to hydrogen fuel.

Mr Bamford has not responded to a request for comment, while Wrightbus also refused to comment on the businessman's involvement, which was first reported in 'The Daily Telegraph'.

The newspaper said Mr Bamford was in talks about potentially buying at least part of the firm, which has been facing trading difficulties following a downturn in its markets.

But a spokeswoman for Wrightbus said yesterday that "advanced" discussions were still taking place with potential investors over a deal.

It is understood Chinese company Weichai, a subsidiary of Shandong Heavy Industry, remains involved in the talks.

Mr Bamford left the business run by his father, who is known as Lord Bamford, earlier this year to pursue his own business interests.

Sources quoted by 'The Daily Telegraph' said Mr Donnelly's plan for the business would have involved around half of the Wrightbus workforce of 1,400 losing their jobs. But it is not clear how many jobs would be preserved under Mr Bamford's proposal.

Mr Donnelly and his father John Donnelly ran SDC Trailers in Toomebridge, Co Antrim, which was sold to Chinese company CIMC vehicles three years ago.

Meanwhile, commercial property agents OKT said two Wrightbus industrial properties remain on the market.

Members of the family behind bus manufacturer Wrightbus put the premises on the business's Galgorm site on the market last month.

The Metallix building is on the market for £1.2m (€1.35m), while the composites factory has an asking price of £1.7m.

Seven decades-old Wrightbus had been a poster-child for Northern Ireland manufacturing up to last year, winning contracts in London and as far afield as China for its super-modern buses in an era of rapid growth for urban mass transport.

But last year Wrights Group declared an 86pc collapse in its pre-tax profits during 2017 and began cutting jobs, citing low levels of demand, and is now in the hunt for investment.

Irish Independent

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