Rolls-Royce drives for $3bn Chinese deal

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The Independent Online

Rolls-Royce has enlisted royal assistance in its bid to beat General Electric (GE) to the $3bn (£1.7bn) tranche of contracts to supply Chinese airlines with engines for their fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft.

Last week, the Duke of York met the heads of six state-owned airlines in Beijing as well as the Minister of Commerce, Bo Xilai, to urge them to buy the engines from Rolls-Royce.

The Boeing planes, sometimes called Dreamliners, can only take engines from Rolls-Royce or US competitor GE. The contracts could be signed as soon as the end of this month, but this timetable could slip. The airlines include Air China and China Southern Airlines.

The six contracts are for 60 planes, and Chinese airlines are expected to buy another 90 aircraft over the next 10 years.

Mr Xilai is part of a Chinese government delegation that is visiting Washington this week. He is expected to be lobbied by American politicians to opt for the GE engines.

Prince Andrew met Mr Xilai in his capacity as special representative of the Government's trade body, UKTI, and said: "I hope you are not unduly put under pressure by our competitors when you go to Washington next week."

Richard Margolis, regional director of Rolls-Royce in China, said: "We never really know what has swung the decision in our favour. All I can say is that the Prince is a very effective promoter in this market."

Trade minister Ian Pearson is flying to China on a follow-up mission this week. Prince Andrew said: "Ian Pearson will come in and be able to hit the ground running. He will be able to go much harder at those nuts he wants to crack with the Chinese government in much more tricky areas where members of the Royal Family ain't supposed to wander."