Rolls-Royce CEO doesn’t exclude narrowbody partnership but ‘moot point’

PARIS (Reuters) – The chief executive of Rolls-Royce said on Tuesday the engine maker did not rule out future partnerships in the narrowbody market, but had a sufficient runway for growth in its large engine business to live without the medium-haul segment.

Tufan Erginbilgic, who is carrying out a strategic review after taking over as CEO in January, told reporters the question of a return to narrowbody markets was a “moot point”, however, with new airplane projects still more than a decade away.

Rolls-Royce was in an alliance from 1983 to 2011 with Pratt & Whitney on engines for Airbus A320 jets.

But it pulled out for the current generation of narrowbodies, whose sales have soared while widebody markets where Rolls focuses its efforts have until recently lagged.

There has been on-off speculation that Rolls and Pratt would co-operate again in the next round of plane developments.

Erginbilgic declined to comment specifically on Pratt, but asked at the Paris Airshow about the challenge of getting back in the narrowbody market, he said: “…or we go into partnership”.

Asked to elaborate, he said: “It is down the road, so speculating on it is not the right thing”.

He said progress on the company’s Ultrafan engine demonstrator gave it a strong competitive position.

“The demonstrator is working really well and that is a scalable technology. We did it intentionally so that we can actually scale down all the way to narrowbody,” he said.

“The fact that we have good IP … I believe this positions us well to participate in narrowbody as well if and when it comes.”

Erginbilgic said the company’s transformation plan was progressing well.

(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter)