1 Jun 2011

Firms consider takeover of bus maker

9:42 pm on 1 June 2011

Widespread interest has been shown from buyers in taking over Canterbury bus maker DesignLine, which has been put in liquidation.

The company was started in Ashburton in 1985 and was purchased by an American company in 2006. Its corporate headquarters is based in North Carolina and it has a factory in the United States.

On Tuesday DesignLine company closed its doors following a hearing at the High Court in Christchurch.

It has a factory at Rolleston near Christchurch which employs 75 people.

Christchurch company HFK Ltd was appointed receiver on Wednesday morning and says there is plenty of interest.

Among potential buyers is a consortium that includes Ritchies Transport Holdings, one of New Zealand's largest bus operators.

Director Andrew Ritchie says a takeover is one of the options on the table and another is to look at alternative builders in Asia or Australia.

DesignLine has made buses for cities in New Zealand and overseas, and was bought out by an American company in 2006.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, which represents about 60 of the employees at the Rolleston factor, believes DesignLine has been struggling for a year or so.

Receiver Keiran Horne says all DesignLine's staff will be back at work on Thursday and HFK will try to keep things as normal as possible while it deals with interested potential buyers.

Companies severed ties

Dunedin Passenger Transport and Citibus, which operate 300 buses across Invercagill, Dunedin, Queenstown and Christchurch, say they severed ties with DesignLine in 2009.

The companies' director Kayne Baas says the products were extremely good but financial difficulties affected DesignLine's performance and ability to get buses built on time.

The country's largest bus operator, NZ Bus, says it severed its ties with DesignLine two years ago when it decided to standardise its fleet using a different maker.

Local firms could provide jobs, says mayor

Selwyn District mayor Kelvin Coe hopes any workers who lose their jobs will find jobs with other businesses setting up in Rolleston.

Mr Coe told Morning Report that Rolleston is an emerging industrial hub with several businesses establishing outlets there and he expects jobs will be available for DesignLine workers, although they may not match their skills.