Rolls-Royce sells Spanish unit for €1.7bn as it repairs finances

Shares soar as, along with ITP Aero sale, firm wins multibillion-dollar contract from US air force

Last modified on Mon 27 Sep 2021 12.48 EDT

Rolls-Royce has sold its Spanish business for €1.7bn and won a multibillion-dollar contract from the US air force, prompting a FTSE 100 leading share price surge as investors cheered signs of the jet engine maker’s post-pandemic recovery.

Shares in the company soared by more than 10% on Monday, sending its stock to its highest level since the early weeks of the Covid crisis in March 2020, after the company announced the sale of its Spanish ITP Aero unit to a consortium led by the US private equity firm Bain Capital.

The company said the sale, which will be completed in the first half of next year, marks a key step in fulfilling its promise to investors to strengthen its finances by making £2bn of disposals this year.

The company also announced a contract to supply F130 engines for the US air force’s B-52 Stratofortress for the next 30 years, which could be worth as much as $2.6bn (£1.9bn). The contract will initially result in Rolls-Royce powering the jets for a six-year period worth $500m.

With air travel severely curtailed during the pandemic, Rolls-Royce’s finances were hit hard because the company is paid on the basis of the number of hours flown by the aircraft that use its engines.

“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone for our disposal programme as we work to strengthen our balance sheet, in support of our medium-term ambition to return to an investment-grade credit profile,” said Warren East, the chief executive of Rolls-Royce. “The creation of an independent ITP Aero is a great opportunity for the company, its people and other stakeholders. It will remain a key strategic supplier and partner for decades to come.”

The sale and contract cap a strong month for Rolls-Royce, whose share price has risen along with other aviation stocks after the UK government simplified international travel rules and scrapped Covid PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers.

The company’s shares rose 10.5%, making Rolls-Royce the top riser on the FTSE 100 on Monday afternoon.

“The lift-off of Rolls-Royce shares following the relaxation of transatlantic travel rules was given added thrust today with news of a big contract with the US air force,” said Susannah Streeter, a senior investment and market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. “Rolls-Royce engines will power the USAF B-52s for the next 30 years, and the clinching of this deal, which could be worth up to $2.6bn, is yet another ray of sunlight for the engineering firm, which finally seems to be leaving the pandemic storm clouds behind.”

ITP Aero, a maker of turbine blades based in the Basque region of Spain, reported revenues of €735m and profits of €40m last year. The business was the biggest asset that Rolls-Royce identified for sale in a recovery plan announced last August. Smaller assets that have been offloaded include a stake in Air Tanker Holdings, its Bergen Engines unit in Norway, and a civil nuclear instrumentation and control business.

“Today’s announcement effectively marks the end of the disposal programme,” a spokesman for Rolls-Royce said. “We continually evaluate non-core assets in the portfolio and will always focus on maximising shareholder value.”

The Bain-led consortium also includes Sapa and JB Capital.

“All of us at ITP Aero are eager to start the next chapter of our story as an independent company with a strong strategic plan and financial support behind us,” said Carlos Alzola, the chief executive of ITP Aero.

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