Rolls-Royce to sell commercial marine business for $661 million

LONDON (Reuters) - Rolls-Royce Holdings RR.L said it would sell its loss-making commercial marine business to Norway's Kongsberg Gruppen ASA KOG.OL for 500 million pounds ($661 million), in the latest reshaping of the engineering company by CEO Warren East.

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Since taking charge in 2015, East has led a turnaround of Rolls, which suffered years of falling profits and multiple profit warnings due to a weak oil and gas market and declines in some of its older aero-engine programs.

The company said in January it was considering selling its commercial marine business which has been most impacted by the weaker oil price as it supplies oil and gas companies with equipment.

The disposal will leave Rolls focused on providing engines for civil aircraft, military planes and ships, and engines for ships, yachts, trains, trucks, mining, and nuclear power stations.

“This transaction builds on the actions we have taken over the last two years to simplify our business,” East said in a statement on Friday.

While Rolls's structure is now to East's liking, Britain's best-known engineering company remains under pressure from airline customers due to ongoing issues with parts not lasting as long as expected on the Trent 1000 which powers the Boeing 787 BA.N.

The sale of the business, which has about 3,600 employees, mostly based in the Nordic region, will generate net proceeds of around 350 million to 400 million pounds, Rolls-Royce said.

Rolls plans to use the proceeds to strengthen its balance sheet and provide capacity to pursue opportunities that will drive greater returns.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019, subject to regulatory clearance.

Shares in Rolls-Royce traded down 0.6 percent to 979 pence at 0751 GMT.

The stock has had a strong month, up 17.8 percent compared to Britain’s bluechip index which is down 1.2 percent, after it hit four-year highs on June 15, when the company said it would exceed its 2020 guidance.

Jefferies analyst Sandy Morris said that the sale proceeds looked satisfactory, adding that the insight provided by Rolls on commercial marine’s revenue and operating loss, showed that other parts of the business were doing well.

“Our main takeaway is that defense marine – retained by Rolls-Royce - is by deduction a nicely profitable business,” he said in a note.

Kongsberg Gruppen said the acquisition would strengthen its competitiveness in an increasingly globalized maritime industry, adding that the companies are “by and large complementary in terms of products, solutions and competencies”.

The Norwegian government, which owns 50 percent of Kongsberg, will take part in a 5 billion Norwegian crown ($620 million) rights issue to fund the deal, subject to parliamentary consent.

Shares in Kongsberg Gruppen opened up 4.6 percent but traded 4.6 percent lower by 0810 GMT at 166 Norwegian crowns.

Additional reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru, Editing by James Davey and Elaine Hardcastle