Rolls-Royce suffers cash drain from jetliner, Brexit bottlenecks

August 6, 2019
Rolls currently has about 50 turbines awaiting delivery, compared with the usual 15

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc's cash outflow ballooned in the first half as a bottleneck in plane deliveries at Airbus SE and Boeing Co. reduced engine revenue and stockpiling for a no-deal Brexit led to a build up of parts.

Europe's biggest jet-engine maker posted negative underlying free cash flow of 429 million pounds ($522 million) for the six months, almost six times the level of a year earlier. The shares fell as much as 2.3%.

Rolls currently has about 50 turbines awaiting delivery, compared with the usual 15 or so. Chief Executive Officer Warren East predicted 'significant improvements' in the second half and said the company should reach its full-year cash goal as the inventory build up unwinds.

Rolls earnings show the ripple effects on suppliers as planemakers grapple with their highest-ever order backlogs amid a surge in air travel. Production setbacks spanning poor-quality seats to engine glitches have held back output, forcing Airbus and Boeing to keep plants operating over the Christmas holidays last year in order to meet delivery targets.

787 Charge

The U.K. company was hit with its own manufacturing issues when faults were found in engines powering the Boeing 787 model. East announced a further charge for repairs to the jet, and another for Airbus's early termination of the A380 superjumbo, as well as higher restructuring costs. He cited a near one-third jump in operating profit on higher margins on A350 turbines and gains at defense and power-systems arms as indicating a healthy underlying business.

The power unit, which makes marine, land and industrial engines and power-generation products, accounted for about half of the inventory build up. The company has spent close to 100 million pounds to smooth its supply chain in the event of a no-deal Brexit, including additional shipping capacity and extra warehouse space in the U.K. and mainland Europe, as well as stockpiling parts.

Across the group, the value of inventory held should decrease by 500 million pounds through the second half, aided by reduced 787 groundings, Rolls-Royce forecasts. The company is targeting full-year free cash flow of 700 million pounds, plus or minus 100 million pounds.

Shares of Rolls, which doesn't make engines for Boeing's grounded 737 Max, were trading 0.8% lower at 807.80 pence as of 9:40 a.m. in London, taking the stock's decline this year to 2% and valuing the group at 15.5 billion pounds.

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