06/04/2004

Minister discusses Mallusk coachbuilder's plight

Local politicians have met with newly appointed NIO Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Barry Gardiner to raise the plight of Mallusk bus manufacturing company Walter Alexander.

The cross party delegation, including former Minister Sir Reg Empey, East Antrim MP Roy Beggs and members of other parties, highlighted that the problems were as a result of the parent company's difficulties and are seeking intervention by Invest NI if a suitable buyer is identified.

Sir Reg said: “The Minister explained that the reason Walter Alexanders is in trouble is because of the decision by its parent company’s bankers, the Royal Bank of Scotland, to put the Mayflower group into administrative receivership.

“This move has been provoked by a number of financial irregularities in the parent company due to the fact that the company also has heavy borrowings.

“We also were told that there is a £17 million shortfall in the company’s pension fund and we are attempting to establish the full implications of this for the local workforce which totals 177. This matter has been referred to the Financial Services Authority for investigation.

“The receivers Deloite and Touche will be attempting to sell the business as a going concern. The company currently accounts for 70 per cent of bus registrations in the UK so there is a strong business there to be saved.”

Sir Reg said they had received assurance from the Minister that Invest NI would enter into negotiations with any perspective buyer with an open mind as to what help could be offered.

He added: “We expect an announcement very soon on what initial steps the receivers will be taking but this is a very trying and testing time for a workforce who through no fault of its own find their positions in jeopardy.”

(SP)

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