Recruitment is to begin within weeks at Wrightbus after the sale of the Ballymena bus manufacturer was completed today.
Bamford Bus Company, owned by English industrialist Jo Bamford, has now formally acquired the firm after it was placed into administration last month, putting 1,200 jobs at risk.
Administrator Deloitte said the new owner was “currently determining the size and composition of the workforce required for its future plans”.
The 60 staff retained by the administrators have transferred to Bamford, Deloitte added.
Mr Bamford – son of Lord Bamford, the JCB diggers billionaire – agreed a deal in principle to buy the firm earlier this month. He will serve as Wrightbus executive chairman.
“We can now start to look to the future and build on the excellent work that Sir William Wright and his family have done to develop the Wrightbus business,” Mr Bamford added.
Buta Atwal, a former senior JCB executive, has been appointed chief executive of the company.
Mr Atwal said that as bus transport looks to decarbonise, there was growing demand for market leaders in this field.
“We must now focus on that opportunity and work hard as a team to move forward and rebuild this great business,” he said.
“Recruitment will begin over the coming weeks and we are very excited about the prospect of recruiting a world-class calibre of people to the business.”
Peter Allen, joint administrator said: “After making extensive efforts to find a buyer, we are confident the new owner represents a bright future for a key employer in Northern Ireland.”
Unite the Union regional officer George Brash welcomed Bamford’s purchase of Wrights Group Ltd, Wrightbus Ltd, Wright En-Drive Ltd and Metallix Ltd.
In a separate deal, Composites Limited has also agreed the purchase of Wright Composites Ltd for an undisclosed sum.
Mr Brash said: “These acquisitions represent a huge vote of confidence in the workforce and in the future of Ballymena as a manufacturing centre. We need to see this decision followed up by a wider programme of public investment in Ballymena to lock in these jobs for the long-term future.
“Unite will engage with our members and with the new owners to ensure the greatest possible number of workers return to what they do best, building buses. This is a highly-skilled workforce and it is vital that Ballymena continues to grow as a hub for cutting-edge bus manufacturing.”
North Amtrim MP Ian Paisley has said the deal marked “a new chapter for industry”.
He added: “I am delighted that a recruitment company has now been tasked to commence recruitment of experts and engineers. I believe a world class group of engineers will now be able to prove their skills with this new company.”