Rolls-Royce Steps Up Investments As Revenues Rise

 - February 18, 2013, 4:20 PM
With the first version of the Trent XWB engine certified, Rolls-Royce can give more attention to developing the more powerful Trent XWB-97 for Airbus’s increased weight A350XWB-1000, as well as the Trent 1000-Ten for Boeing’s 787. (Photo: Rolls-Royce)

The recent completion of European certification of Rolls-Royce’s Trent XWB not only boosted Airbus’s efforts to fly its new A350XWB widebody in the first half of this year, it freed the UK-based engine maker to turn its attention to the Trent XWB-97 turbofan, designed to power the longer-range A350-1000 (the standard 84,000-pound-thrust Trent XWB powers the -800 and -900 versions). Rated to produce 97,000 pounds of thrust, the XWB-97 will, according to Rolls-Royce, run more efficiently than any engine it has ever built.

“In January we held the preliminary design review for the growth engine,” Trent XWB program director Chris Young told a press briefing last week. “This takes us toward [the] detailed design and make [stage]–designing parts, creating forgings and getting ready to get the first prototype in place.”

Customer demand prompted Airbus to increase the maximum takeoff weight of the A350XWB-1000. So far, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways have ordered the larger variant.

Meanwhile, on February 14, Rolls-Royce announced that a 23-percent increase in engine deliveries during the second half of 2012 helped to drive up group revenue by 8 percent, to £12.2 billion ($18.9 billion), and profit before tax by 24 percent, to £1.43 billion ($2.2 billion). Allowing for adjustments following the sale of Rolls-Royce’s stake in International Aero Engines, the group’s order book increased by 4 percent, to £60.1 billion ($93.2 billion). Civil aerospace orders accounted for £10.3 billion ($15.9 billion) of the £16.1 billion ($24.9 billion) in new orders logged in 2012.

“In 2013, we expect modest growth in underlying revenue and good growth in underlying profit with cash flow around break even as we continue to invest in our future,” commented Rolls-Royce CEO John Rishton. Apart from the Trent XWB-97, the company is investing in development of the Trent-1000-Ten, scheduled to power Boeing 787-8s and -9s entering service from 2016 as well as, potentially, the still unlaunched 787-10X.

Rolls-Royce also announced that Ian Davis will assume the company’s chairmanship from Sir Simon Robertson, who plans to retire at this year’s annual general meeting on May 2. One of the new chairman’s first priorities will likely involve implementing any changes in business practice that the ongoing review of compliance procedures prompted by allegations of bribery in China and Indonesia might require. Rolls-Royce presented the results of its own investigation to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office in December last year and, on January 10, appointed Lord Gold to review its compliance procedures.