Blair failed to save £1bn Rolls-Royce US contract

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Blair failed to save £1bn Rolls-Royce US contract

By Adam Durchslag, February 5, 2006

Het Britse The Business komt vandaag met het nieuws dat de tweede JSF motor (F-136) inderdaad, ondanks persoonlijke bemoeienissen van PM Blair definitief geschrapt wordt. Zoals ik vorige maand al schreef zal dit verstrekkende gevolgen hebben Voor Nederlandse bedrijven als Nedtech en vooral DutchAero (tot voor kort Philips Aerospace). Laatstsgenoemde tekende afgelopen zomer nog een contract met Rolls-Royce voor levering van de 'blisk' voor de General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136. Nedtech en Philips kregen in december 2004 ook al orders van RR voor de JSF back-up motor. Met het schrappen van de Rolls Royce F136 motor en het verwachte grote orderverlies voor DutchAero, dat naast Stork een van de belangrijkste Nederlandse deelnemers aan de JSF zou moeten worden, lijkt de kans dat Nederlandse bedrijven ooit in staat zullen zijn de 800 miljoen dollar entreegeld voor de JSF aan de Nederlandse staat terug te betalen verder geslonken. Daarmee is ook de business case, waarmee de regering steeds deelname heeft verdedigd, niet langer houdbaar.

Frank Slijper

TONY Blair has failed to persuade President Bush to save Rolls-Royce's $2.4bn (£1.36bn, E2bn) contract to develop a second engine for America's Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35, The Business can confirm.

"The second [engine] is being dropped," a source close to Rolls-Royce told The Business last week. During 2005, Rolls-Royce and General Electric were awarded the contract to develop the second engine in competition with a Pratt & Whitney engine.The F-35 is a radar-evading single-seater fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin. The Pentagon originally wanted a choice of two engines for the new vertical take-off F-35, which is due to enter service in 2009. It will replace the ageing Harrier Jump Jet.

Supporters of the second engine argued that competition would also reduce long-term costs and provide a back-up should problems arise with the Pratt & Whitney engine. The US is spending $256bn on the F-35, the Pentagon's biggest single contract.

On 22 January, The Business revealed that Blair had made personal appeals to President Bush during private telephone calls and in a letter to try to save the contract for Rolls-Royce. As a result of the decision to ditch the second engine development, some 340 Rolls-Royce workers will be redeployed or made redundant.

Half the jobs now being reviewed are in Indianapolis, the other half at the group's Bristol plant. Rolls-Royce will, however, continue to work on a $1bn contract awarded in 2001 to develop the vertical lift take-off engine fan, or STOVL, for Pratt & Whitney's F-35 engine.

On Thursday, Rolls-Royce will report buoyant full-year 2005 results. Analysts confidently expect the company to announce that net profits have doubled as a result of the upturn in orders for new civil aviation aircraft. The company is expected to report net profits of about £400m on revenue of between £6.6bn and £6.7bn.

Analysts believe Rolls-Royce has won orders for between 900 and 950 Boeing and Airbus engines during 2005, up from 824 in 2004. They estimate that Rolls-Royce has delivered 84 engines for the Eurofighter. Rolls-Royce's shares closed last week at a year high of 445p.

But the loss of the F-35 engine deal is a big setback for Britain's aero-engine maker. Official confirmation is expected to come from Congress on Monday when the US budget is debated. A cross-party Congressional committee is likely to review the loss of the Rolls-Royce/GE engine, defence sources said.

The Rolls-Royce engine is funded until the autumn, regardless of the decision. Rolls-Royce/GE's F-35 engine is currently being prepared for testing later this month in the US state of Ohio.

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