Air Transport World

Comeback kid.(Rolls-Royce aircraft engines)

Rolls-Royce will enter the next millennium a full player in the heart of the game, far stronger than the company that teetered into the early '90s

Once upon a time, but not very long ago, there were smart people who predicted that only two engine manufacturers would survive into the 21st century. It also was said that collaborations among competitors, the only way to reduce suicidal competition, were the wave of the future. One way or the other, the brave old names of the airline engine business would be reduced or obscured.

As is so often the case with common wisdom, it is commonly held but not very wise. Case in point: Rolls-Royce.

Not too many years ago, this very British company was fading from industry view. It was weak, accustomed to government hand-outs, and had few products flying on few aircraft. Prospects were bleak and the competitors were juggernauts backed by huge corporations. Rolls, set adrift from the resources of the UK national treasury, was left to its own devices; a dismal fate loomed.

Forget all that. A combination of canny product positioning, quality technology, a good acquisition, rising market demand and strategic partnerships has Rolls-Royce strongly positioned and well-entrenched.

Chairman Ralph Robins used a Paris air show presentation to drive home the point that Rolls' business is rock solid: "Our current market share is 35% and our target is 30%. Our forecast is for 80,000 new engines in 20 years. If we get 30% it would mean 1,400 engines a year." To give some perspective on that number, note that Rolls' production last year was a little more than 900 engines and this year it will be around 1,000. "It is an exciting business in which we're taking other people's business," Robins says.

While there is no doubt that Rolls' market-share numbers are building, there is a range of results, depending in large part on definitions. In The Airline Monitor, Edmund Greenslet last year predicted that by 2020 Rolls' share in terms of engines in service, including its pieces of IAE and BMW Rolls-Royce, will rise from 13.2% of the world market today to 16.5%.

Rolls' own view of its market position is based more on year-to-year share of sales and deliveries, and on that basis, says John Cheffins, managing director-airlines, "in deliveries we are number two for the past two years, looking at value and in quantity. …

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