Prof­its fall by 86% at Bal­ly­mena bus giant Wrights

Group blames‘ chal­lenges’ inuk and over­seas mar­kets

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - BY RYAN MCALEER

BAL­LY­MENA bus giant the Wrights Group has de­clared an 86% col­lapse in its pre-tax prof­its dur­ing 2017.

Four months after an­nounc­ing 95 re­dun­dan­cies at its Wright­bus plant, cit­ing low lev­els of demand, the com­pany has re­vealed the per­for­mance of its fi­nances across the group last year.

After post­ing pre-tax prof­its of £10.7m for 2016, con­sol­i­dated ac­counts for the group showed a £9.2m slump to £1.5m for the 12 months to De­cem­ber 31, 2017.

The ac­counts, which in­clude five Uk-based sub­sidiaries and four over­seas-based en­ti­ties, re­ported turnover of £227.2m for 2017. It com­pares to £264.4m for 2016, a dif­fer­ence of £37.2m (14%).

A to­tal of 190 re­dun­dan­cies an­nounced at Wright­bus this year marked the lat­est blow for Bal­ly­mena after the clo­sure of to­bacco giant JTI and tyre firm Miche­lin.

How­ever, when taken alone, the re­sults for the Wrights Group’s Bal­ly­mena bus-mak­ing en­ter­prise were more pos­i­tive than for the group as a whole. Wright­bus Ltd makes up nearly 80% of the en­tire group’s turnover. Although its £181.3m turnover for 2017 was well down on the £214.6m it re­ported in the pre­vi­ous 12 months, pre-tax prof­its held at £5m in 2017, al­beit £1m down on 2016.

“Our 2017 re­sults have to be seen in the con­text of chal­lenges in both the UK and our over­seas mar­kets,” group fi­nance di­rec­tor Kirsty Mcbride said yes­ter­day.

“We ex­pe­ri­enced a change in the mix in our UK busi­ness in 2017,” she con­tin­ued, adding that there had been “sig­nif­i­cant one-off costs in our over­seas sub­sidiaries, cou­pled with the com­ple­tion of the pri­mary rev­enue gen­er­at­ing con­tract in Sin­ga­pore”.

“Not­with­stand­ing the an­tic­i­pated re­duc­tion in profit for 2017, the group con­tin­ued to in­vest strongly in re­search and de­velop- ment to safe­guard our abil­ity to con­tinue to com­pete in mar­kets world­wide in the long-term, with ex­pen­di­ture in 2017 stand­ing at nearly £5m. All of this spend con­tin­ues to be writ­ten off against profit in the years in which it is in­curred, in line with our cau­tious ac­count­ing pol­icy,” she said.

Ms Mcbride said when con­sol­i­dated, the group’s bal­ance sheet re­mains “ex­cep­tion­ally strong”, with net as­sets of over £42m and no sig­nif­i­cant long-term debt. Ac­counts filed for 2016 give a work­force of 1,861, but the firm has not dis­closed its present head­count.

Mark Nod­der, the group’s chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive, said “sig­nif­i­cant strides” had been taken to open up new in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

He said: “Our con­tin­ued in­vest­ment in new driv­e­line tech­nol­ogy places us at the fore­front of build­ing the best bus for the 21st cen­tury and our move to a new 90-acre site in Bal­ly­mena has given us an in­dus­try lead­ing pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity.

“Our core strengths re­main in place and, while 2018 has proved to be an even more chal­leng­ing year from a fi­nan­cial per­spec­tive, group-wide we re­main in a good po­si­tion to take full ad­van­tage of the up­turn in the mar­ket when trad­ing con­di­tions im­prove.”

Man­u­fac­tur­ing NI chief Stephen Kell said it was one of our most im­por­tant man­u­fac­tur­ers.

He said: “They are a very vis­i­ble sym­bol of our en­gi­neer­ing ex­cel­lence in mar­kets at home and abroad.

“Given un­wel­come news in north Antrim in the past few years, the suc­cess of Wright­bus con­tin­ues to send a strong mes­sage about the health of our man­u­fac­tur­ing com­mu­nity. Their con­tri­bu­tion to jobs and wages mean we have strong lo­cal economies where peo­ple want to con­trib­ute to their com­mu­nity.”

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