A deal has been reached in principle for the sale of Wrightbus.
Bidder Jo Bamford said agreement had been reached with “the Wright family for the Wrightbus factory and land”.
“We are still to conclude a deal with the administrators but are pleased to report this important step in the right direction.
“I would like to thank Ian Paisley for his hard work and diligence in helping to mediate what has at times been a tricky negotiation.”
George Brash from the Unite union described it as a “momentous day”.
He said it was a tribute to the workforce and the solidarity they have shown.
“There are a lot of smiling faces at the moment,” he added.
“We just need everything confirmed.”
Mr Bamford, an English industrialist, who is the son of JCB chairman Lord Bamford, wants to buy the Wrightbus business and the factory through his Ryse Hydrogen company.
Mr Paisley said he welcomed the announcement by Mr Bamford.
He said Mr Bamford is “concluding the final arrangements with the administrator to take over Wrightbus and get men and women back to work building buses”.
On Thursday, the owner of the Wrightbus factory, Jeff Wright, said he had not been able to reach a deal to sell it to a new owner.
He said that the sticking point had been farmland he did not consider part of the factory site.
A statement from Jeff Wright on Friday confirmed that the farmland will be gifted to the local council as a tribute to his father Sir William Wright.
There are also plans for an innovation centre for start-ups.
“This legacy gift is a tribute not only to my father, his father before him, and the Wright family members, but most importantly is a tribute to the generations of workers who helped build a proud manufacturing tradition in Ballymena,” he added.
“It is my true wish to see this legacy used for the purposes of expanding manufacturing and benefiting our local community.”
Manufacturing NI tweeted that it was great news that a deal had been done which could lead to a deal being secured by the administrators, but added that “in saving some jobs at Wrightbus they don’t kill jobs in the SME supply chain who are owed millions”.
Wrightbus was started in 1946 from a tin shed in Ballymena by Robert Wright and his son, William – now Sir William Wright.
The Ballymena business was placed into administration and put up for sale last month.
The Wrightbus premises are owned separately from the manufacturing business and held in a company called Whirlwind Property Two, which is not part of the Wright group and is therefore not under the control of the administrator.
The property company is controlled by Jeff Wright, the former owner of Wrightbus.