Rolls-Royce is a name commonly associated with luxury and high quality engineering. Although the automobile brand and manufacturing was sold to BMW and Volkswagen respectively, Rolls-Royce Holdings plc continues to manufacture a large proportion of the world’s civic and military propulsion systems. It is a market leader in these industries, with it and its subsidiaries operating on all major continents around the globe. The current CEO is Warren East, who was appointed on the 2 July 2015.
Rolls-Royce was initially started by Henry Royce in 1884, as an electrical and mechanical business. The first Rolls-Royce was built in 1904 after Royce met Charles Rolls, who sold luxury cars in a London showroom. The brand was catapulted onto centre stage with the launch of the six-cylinder Silver Ghost in 1906, which rapidly became known as one of the best cars in the world. 1914 brought the beginning of the First World War, and it was at the time that the company produced its first aero engine – the Eagle.
1931 saw the development of a new engine – the ‘R’, which powered the British entry in the International Schneider Trophy. The plane established a new world air speed record of over 400 mph. The ‘R’ was the technological base of the ‘Merlin’, the engine that powered the Hawker Hurricane, and Supermarine Spitfire; stalwarts of the RAF during the Second World War.
Rolls Royce entered the civil aviation market in 1953 with the Dart engine, for the Vickers Viscount, one of the first gas turbines in airline industry. Throughout the 1960s popularity of widebody airliners rose, and so Rolls-Royce produced the RB211, which unfortunately had many issues. In 1973 the automobile part of the business was floated as a separate entity after the company was taken into state ownership. Through several mergers and acquisitions, the company expanded into providing engines for air, sea, and land travel.
In 1990 a joint venture was made with BMW Germany to make aero engines, and in 1995 the Allison Engine Company was acquired to produce a new engine for Embraer’s new regional jet. During 1998 Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was sold by Vickers to VW, although BMW holds the naming rights on Rolls-Royce cars.
1999 the company completed a major acquisition of Vickers plc for £576m. This allowed the company to expand into the marine propulsion industry, in which it has now become a market leader.
The Rolls-Royce business is varied and far reaching, below is a list of some of their most significant dealings in various industries:
- Civil Aerospace – Rolls-Royce provide their Trent 900 engine, of which four are used on the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner. They also provide the Trent 100 for the Boeing 787, a popular-mid range aircraft.
- Defence Aerospace – They provide the engines for the British Hercules C-130, a transport aircraft. They also power the Tornado Typhoon, and the Eurofighter Typhoon, both top of the line multirole fighter jets.
- Power Systems – The main focus here is on small scale energy generation, such diesel gensets for emergency, or peak usage, applications. Their Oil & Gas division was acquired by Siemens in 2014.
- Marine – The portfolio includes many engines for both civil and military purposes, such as for Turkish boat builder ARES, the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Global Combat Ship, and they are even exploring futuristic electric naval ships.
- Nuclear – One of the main products provided is the nuclear propulsion system for the British Astute class submarines, however they also produce small modular reactors, and a variety of services involved in maintaining active reactors.
- R2 Data Labs – The data division of Rolls-Royce. This acts a development hub both internally and externally.
Rolls-Royce trades under the symbol RR on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), and is a constituent of the FTSE 100. The company currently has a market capitalisation of £15.478B. Generally the price of the company has risen, and all recent fluctuations can also be viewed in charts at Capital.com. It experienced financial difficulties in 1971, and therefore went into voluntary liquidation. At this stage many of its businesses were split, and it returned to the markets in 1987 as Rolls-Royce plc. The current RR price can be viewed on the Capital.com website.