MTU still in the black, but maritime sector puts pressure on revenue

Despite Covid-19 and revenue falling 11 per cent as a result, Rolls-Royce Power Systems and its MTU brand still managed to make a profit over the first 6 months of 2020. The maritime sector, however, was largely responsible for putting pressure on the company’s result.

Power Systems saw its revenue fall to GBP 1.25 billion. The division remains in the black, having generated GBP 22 million (down 79 per cent) of underlying profit. At the same time, Power Systems has been continuing to work hard on reinventing itself as a provider of sustainable, integrated total solutions for drive-power and energy needs, and is increasingly developing net-zero-carbon products.

‘Despite the unprecedented scenario in which the global economy finds itself due to Covid-19, we have actively managed the economic impact on Power Systems in the first six months of 2020,’ says Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems. ‘We identified this problem at an early stage and took a number of countermeasures. The challenge of focusing effort on shielding our employees from infection while continuing to serve customers to the best of our abilities has been met despite the prevailing headwinds.’

Markets reacting differently

Looking back over the first half of 2020, Louise Öfverström, Chief Financial Officer of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, comments: ‘The drop in revenue is due to noticeable reluctance on the part of customers to invest in new equipment, although the falls varied from application to application. Our diversified positioning across a range of applications covering 13 markets has once again proven to be the right one and has had a stabilizing effect on our business.’

Sales in the power generation market remained stable due to increased investments of data center customers safeguarding their electrical power systems against unexpected outages. ‘The lockdowns have made us all keenly aware of the primary importance of keeping data flowing. Our systems help secure power supplies to many safety-critical facilities such as data centers, server parks, and hospitals too,’ explains Andreas Schell. The defence sector remained stable and was not influenced by the pandemic.

Equipment destined for the oil and gas sector, industrial powertrains and propulsion systems for passenger ships and yachts were all hit by declining sales. As a great many vehicles, machines and systems were halted during lockdown, service revenues fell by around 12 per cent.

Cost saving measures

‘In some areas, we have adjusted production to this lower demand scenario, using measures such as short time work at German sites. However, at no point did operations come to a halt, despite challenges in our global supply chains. Thanks to intelligent crisis management and good relations with our supply partners, we’ve been able to deliver all orders despite the difficult environment. This too has helped reduce the consequences for our business,’ stresses Schell.

In order to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, Power Systems has taken a number of measures aimed at preserving cash. A ban on all non-critical business trips and a review of ongoing projects, pausing them where necessary, are just some examples. In order to reduce personnel costs, managers are waiving parts of their salary, or postponing remittance. Other cost measures include a hiring freeze, postponement of salary increases this financial year, and a three-week unpaid production break at US plants.

Cautiously optimistic outlook

Signs of recovery are now emerging in some applications and markets, for example in China. ‘State rescue programs and the easing of Covid restrictions, where feasible, will help bring about recovery. That said, whether and to what extent a recovery will occur also depends on what happens to the infection rate, and how that impacts the economy,’ adds Schell. From today’s perspective, Power Systems’ end markets are expected to return to pre-Covid levels by the end of 2021.

In the meantime, the company seeks to press ahead to become a provider of integrated, net-zero-carbon solutions. Electrification, digitalization and decarbonization are the key watchwords.

‘The announcement of our collaboration with Daimler and its partner Volvo in using commercial vehicle fuel cells in distributed power supply systems has made our customers and the industry sit up and take notice,’ says Schell. Work is already underway on a demo system due to go into operation in early 2021. “This will be a real alternative for many, especially if the fuel cells run on green hydrogen produced from renewable energy sources,’ Schell concludes.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.