Northern Ireland

Wrightbus to buy Gallahers' Ballymena tobacco factory site

Tobacco factory Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption JTI is to leave the Lisnafillan site in mid-2017

The 100-acre JTI Gallahers factory site in Ballymena is to be bought by Wrightbus in a deal set to complete early next year.

Contracts have been exchanged but both companies say details of the transaction "will remain undisclosed".

JTI will leave the Lisnafillan plant in mid-2017, following the recent ending of tobacco manufacturing operations with the loss of more than 800 jobs.

The Wrights Group is one Ballymena's most significant employers.

It has a workforce of about 1,800 and also has a plant in Antrim.

Chairman Mark Nodder said its current factory at Galgorm - about a mile from JTI - had become "somewhat landlocked in recent years".

He said the purchase would provide additional space "to ensure our future growth and development plans are not hampered by real estate constraints".

Creating additional jobs is possible "in the medium to long term", he added.

The deal was welcomed by Economy Minister Simon Hamilton.

"By securing the Lisnafillan facility, Wrights Group is cementing its commitment to Ballymena and demonstrating its drive for growth in international markets," he said.

The area's MP Ian Paisley expressed his delight at the move.

"JTI promised me they would do all possible to make the site attractive and this is a fitting legacy," he said.

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