Rolls-Royce seeks long-term uplift with new aero engines

Wed Feb 26, 2014 2:16pm EST
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By Sarah Young

DERBY, England (Reuters) - British engineering company Rolls-Royce (RR.L: Quote) has outlined plans designed to maintain long-term dominance in large aircraft engines, showcasing two new models that could improve efficiency by up to 10 percent.

Rolls-Royce warned this month that U.S. and European defense cuts mean that a decade of profit growth will come to an end this year, sending its shares sharply down and providing added incentive to refocus investor attention on the company's longer-term prospects.

Soaring demand for more fuel-efficient engines for aircraft made by Europe's largest aerospace group Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) and its U.S. rival Boeing (BA.N: Quote) has helped Rolls-Royce's civil aerospace division, which generates about half of its sales, to drive the company's strong run over the past decade.

That appetite shows no signs of slowing. Over the next 20 years the world will need to double its fleet of aircraft as cities expand and Asia's increasingly affluent middle class takes to the skies, Airbus forecast in September, adding that airlines, leasing companies and cargo operators would need a total of 29,226 new passenger and freighter jets worth $4.4 trillion.

Rolls-Royce, a major British exporter founded in 1884, has responded with Wednesday's unveiling of the new Advance and Ultrafan engines.

The Advance could be ready to enter service by 2020, it said, bringing efficiency improvements of up to 6 percent on its Trent WXB engine, which will be powering planes later this year.

At its headquarters in Derby, central England, Rolls-Royce unveiled the lightweight Advance's carbon-titanium fan blades, suspended from the roof of one of the huge kerosene-smelling hangars scattered around the vast site. The blades will be attached to a core smaller than the Trent model's before the engine is put through its paces over the coming years.

BIRD STRIKE   Continued...

Journalists work next to the Rolls Royce engine of an Airbus A350 on display at the Singapore Airshow February 11, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su