Monday 13 September 2021 8:25 am

Rolls-Royce and Babcock sell stakes in RAF refuelling business for £315m

Industrial heavyweights Babcock and Rolls-Royce today sold off their respective stakes in Air Tanker, the company which owns the RAF’s fleet of refuelling planes.

The two firms, which owned a combined 40 per cent of Air Tanker, are both on something of a disposal spree after taking a hefty hit from the pandemic.

Rolls-Royce, which has a 23.1 per cent stake in the firm, sold its share to asset manager Equitix Investment Management for £189m.

And Babcock sold its 15.4 per cent stake to the same buyer for £126m.

Both firms said that the proceeds from the sale would go towards reducing their net debt.

The rest of Air Tanker is still owned by Thales and Airbus. Both Babcock and Rolls-Royce will retain its 23.5 per cent stake in AirTanker Services Limited, which operates the 14 RAF Voyager aircraft.

Babcock chief executive David Lockwood said: “This the third disposal we have announced as part of our ongoing programme to streamline the Group and, should all complete, ensures we will meet our target of generating at least £400 million of disposal proceeds this financial year.

“We are pleased to continue to maintain an interest in AirTanker through our work with AirTanker Services.”

Tom Bell, president of Rolls-Royce Defence, said: “We are honoured to power the Voyager fleet. Through our continued ownership position in AirTanker Services, the Royal Air Force can rely on us to support its mission critical operations with our Trent 700 derivative engines.

“The sale of our shareholding in AirTanker Holdings is another important step towards achieving our Group target to generate at least £2bn from disposals, as announced last year, to help rebuild our Group balance sheet in support of our medium-term ambition to return to an investment grade credit profile.”

The sale is conditional on regulatory approvals, and will require consent from the Ministry of Defence and the US Department of State,