Rolls-Royce shares have jumped to their highest in more than a year - despite an 80 per cent fall in profits

 
Emma Haslett
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The company's hedge book has been hit by the weak pound (Source: Getty)

It's a sign of the times that the revelation of an 80 per cent fall in pre-tax profits by one of the UK's largest engineering firms was a cause for celebration by shareholders...

The figures

Are you sitting down? Underlying pre-tax profits fell 80 per cent in the six months to mid-June, to £104m, while reported revenues fell into a loss of £2.15bn.

Meanwhile, underlying revenues fell five per cent to £6.14bn, and earnings per share fell 81 per cent to 4.2p.

Those were pushed down by a 91 per cent fall in profits at its civil aerospace division, which makes up 51 per cent of group revenues, while profits in defence aerospace, which accounts for 33 per cent of revenues, fell 33 per cent.

The news had been well trailed, though, which meant shares rose 17 per cent to 857.2p in mid-morning trading, their highest since the end of June last year.

Why it's interesting

If ever there was going to be a casualty of the falling pound, Rolls-Royce was it: the company runs a $29bn (£22bn)hedge book to protect its dollar-denominated sales from exchange rate movements - this morning it said that had taken a £2.2bn hit.

But despite that, last month the company said it remained "committed" to the UK. Although while it said in a statement the Brexit vote will have "no immediate impact on our day-to-day business", it also said that the "medium and long-term effect will depend upon the relationships that are established between the UK, the EU and the rest of the world over the coming years".

But even before the referendum, things weren't looking great for the company: since 2014 it has issued several profit warnings, and back in May its credit rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor's, which said it anticipated that weak margins and cash flow generation will "persist for longer than we expected".

Still, it saw a few chinks of light, pointing out that long-term trends such as a growing middle class in Asia and increased globalisation were driving demand for growth in large passenger aircraft, for which it makes the engines, as well as business jets, power systems and maritime activity.

What Rolls-Royce said

Chief executive Warren East said:

We have taken some positive first steps on the journey that will lead Rolls-Royce to profitable and highly cash generative growth. Our strategic advantages lie in our focus on engineering excellence, operational excellence and capturing value in the aftermarket. In the first six months, we have made progress with our business transformation; introducing the greater pace and simplicity required to make Rolls-Royce a more resilient company.

In short

Pulling itself out of the quagmire is going to be a long, slow process for Rolls-Royce.

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