Northern Ireland

Wrightbus bidder Darren Donnelly 'no longer pursuing deal'

Wrightbus facility
Image caption Wrightbus is one of Ballymena's largest employers

A leading Northern Ireland industrialist who had been in the running to buy Wrightbus has withdrawn from the process.

Darren Donnelly confirmed his interest in the Ballymena business on Saturday.

However, he has now said he is no longer pursuing a deal with the business, which has been facing financial problems.

Wrightbus, which employs around 1,200 people, said it is still in discussions with "a limited number of investors".

In 2016, Mr Donnelly and his father sold their main business, SDC Trailers, for almost £100m.

His spokesperson said: "Whilst discussions had been ongoing over the past number of weeks, Mr Donnelly has confirmed that he has withdrawn from the process and is no longer pursuing the potential purchase of the Wrightbus company.

"Mr Donnelly has no further comment to make at this time."

'We are optimistic'

Wrightbus said it was "optimistic and working hard towards getting the best possible outcome for the skilled workforce we have in Ballymena".

"We will ensure that staff are kept informed throughout this process.

"Due to the commercial nature of these final discussions, we are unable to comment further until the process is completed."

Wrightbus confirmed in July that it was seeking an investor or buyer as it faces cash flow problems.

Management apologised to staff, saying the news had been "leaked" to the media.

Latest accounts show Wrightbus made a pre-tax profit of about £5m on turnover of more than £181m in 2017.

But its financial situation has deteriorated since then.

It made two rounds of redundancies last year with 95 jobs going in February and June - which it said reflected continued low levels of demand for new buses in the UK market.

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