Sunday 15 September 2019

Seat maker plans €44m Craigavon industrial park

Luxury: Thompson Aero makes business class seats for airlines
Luxury: Thompson Aero makes business class seats for airlines

Ryan McAleer

CHINESE-owned airline seat manufacturer Thompson Aero Seating has launched a bid to construct a new £40m (€44m)industrial park in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

The Portadown-based company, which employs 1,500 people, has notified officials of its plan to build up to 20 units, each of around 25,000 sq ft.

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Thompson Aero, which makes business class seats for airlines such as Lufthansa and Delta, was acquired by state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) just over three years ago. It comes amid reports linking Chinese vehicle giant BYD with a potential investment in troubled Ballymena busmaker Wrightbus.

Thompson Aero boss Andres Budo said the 350,000 sq ft production facility will be open by 2021 with the firm consolidating its five existing sites into one.

Mr Budo said it would help the business grow its workforce to around 1,700. He also revealed that the Chinese-owned firm is eyeing up a new industrial park venture.

"We are going to have additional internal capabilities. That will be roughly 350,000 sq ft with the possibility of having an industrial park where key suppliers can set up to support us. They will have the ability to land on our industrial park," he said.

In early July, Thompson Aero Seating submitted a pre-planning application notice (PAN) in respect of a major new manufacturing, assembly, research and testing facility on a 100-acre site close to Craigavon's retail hub.

Alongside new offices, marketing space and an employee well-being centre, the development will entail new roads, infrastructure and an electricity substation.

Now the airline seat manufacturer has submitted a second pre-planning application notice for what appears to be a new business park on the eastern section of the site.

It would see up to 20 separate class B-type units built over 50 acres, ranging from light and general industrial to storage and distribution premises.

The company has said the total floorspace could eventually exceed half a million square feet.

In its latest published accounts, released last September, Thompson Aero revealed that it had doubled its turnover to £105m from £52m in the year to the end of December 2017.

Pre-tax profits also more than doubled to £10.7m from £4.5m over the same period.

Earlier this month, chief executive Andres Budo said Thompson Aero remains on course to double its sales again to around the £220m mark.

Irish Independent

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