Business & Tech

GE tries to break Rolls’ grip on engines for Airbus jet

LONDON — General Electric Co. is in talks with Airbus SE to offer engines for the A330 jet, people familiar with the matter said, aiming to break Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc’s grip as the sole engine provider for the wide-body plane.

The GEnx turbine could offer airline customers fuel savings and lower costs, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing private deliberations.

The discussions are preliminary and no final decision has been made, the people said. The GEnx engine platform is an option on Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner wide-body.

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Airbus said it was happy with the A330’s Rolls Trent engines and is always in talks with engine makers about new technologies and ways to benefit its customers.

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GE said it doesn’t comment on discussions with planemakers. “We continuously work to identify opportunities to add value for our customers and to assess introduction of new technologies,” the company said by e-mail. The GE-Airbus discussions were reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal.

Engine platforms can cost billions of dollars to develop. Manufacturers attempt to broaden the turbines’ use across multiple models as sales of twin-aisle jets lose ground to more-efficient narrow-body planes, such as Airbus’s best-selling A320 family.

Boeing said last month that it would pare output of the Dreamliner early next year to 10 a month from 12. Last week, Airbus said it would cut production of the A330 to 40 in 2020 from 53 last year.

GE, as well as other Boeing suppliers, has also been pinched by the global grounding of the 737 Max following two fatal crashes. The planemaker last month halted output of the jet, for which a GE joint venture supplies the engines, while it awaits approval for the plane’s return to service.

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Meanwhile, GE stood by its goal of boosting cash flow this year despite a near-term drag from the production halt of the 737 Max.

While the company’s cash burn could worsen to as much as $2 billion in the first quarter because of ‘‘pressure’’ from the Max crisis, GE will reap the rewards of a rebound later in the year, chief executive Larry Culp said Wednesday at a Barclays conference. GE’s manufacturing businesses will generate as much as $4 billion in free cash this year, he reiterated.

Culp’s sanguine outlook for 2020 offered some relief to investors concerned over the Max’s impact on GE, which makes engines for Boeing’s best-selling jet. The plane has been grounded for almost a year following a pair of deadly crashes.

GE expects to set aside about $100 million in the first quarter related to its old long-term care insurance business, a smaller amount than expected, Culp said. Separately, he cautioned that the virus outbreak in China is a ‘‘wild card’’ for the near-term performance of the Boston-based company, which also makes power equipment and medical scanners.