Deloitte will be appointed as administrator to Wrightbus on Wednesday, putting 1300 jobs at risk, Sky News learns.
Boris Johnson will face his second major private sector headache this week on Wednesday with the Northern Irish bus-maker Wrightbus poised to crash into administration.
Sky News has learnt that the Ballymena-based company is expected to formally appoint Deloitte as administrator following weeks of talks with potential buyers.
Sources close to one of the bidders said on Tuesday evening that the appointment of Deloitte was «almost certain» to happen within 24 hours, putting about 1,300 jobs at risk.
The news will represent a devastating blow to Northern Ireland’s manufacturing sector, with the prospects of Wrightbus being salvaged in its current form now understood to be remote.
It will prompt questions about the extent to which the government has intervened to try to support the company following the prime minister’s comments several weeks ago, when he told MPs: «It was of great value to the people of this country and I think it’s a great company and we will make sure, I give my assurance, we will do everything we can to ensure the future of that great UK company.»
Wrightbus’s descent into insolvency proceedings will come within hours of Thomas Cook’s compulsory liquidation.
In the last month, Wrightbus has held talks with potential buyers including Darren Donnelly, a local transport entrepreneur; Jo Bamford, a member of the JCB-founding family; and Weichai, a Chinese industrial group.
Wrightbus counts Transport for London (TfL) and Volvo among its most significant biggest customers.
The Routemasters commissioned by Mr Johnson during his tenure as mayor of London, which became known as «Boris Buses» because of their distinctive look, are made by Wrightbus.
The company is one of Northern Ireland’s most prominent exporters and its collapse would be a severe blow to the local economy following job losses at Bombardier, the aerospace group, and the crisis at shipbuilder Harland and Wolff.
Sky News revealed in July that Wrightbus had hired Deloitte, the professional services firm, to court potential buyers after a financial downturn that has left it facing heavy losses.
Annualised losses are currently running to approximately £15m, and the company may need a capital injection of at least £30m, an insider said in July.
Wrightbus has had a presence in Ballymena for decades.
Sir William Wright, who founded the company with his father in 1946, was knighted in last year’s New Year Honours list for services to the bus industry and the UK economy.
In its current form, Wright Group became the world’s first developer of a hybrid-electric double-decker bus in 2006.
Wright Group, which also counts the Kowloon Motor Bus company in Hong Kong among its big export customers, has already been forced into making redundancies.
In June last year, it said it was axing 95 jobs across its operations in a move which angered union representatives at Unite.
That followed an identical round of cuts three months earlier.
In addition to its bus-making unit, Wright Group encompasses a chassis design arm, EN-Drive.
Wrightbus could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.