THE grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max planes and the impact of the coronavirus outbreak have hit sales at Dorset’s aerospace engineering giant Meggitt, the company said.

The business warned that revenue growth was expected to at least halve this year and that the impact was likely to be felt “beyond 2020”.

Meggitt, based at Bournemouth Airport, is forecasting sales growth of between two per cent and four per cent this year, compared with the eight per cent reported in its last full-year results. It also sees profit margin progress being held back.

The alert overshadowed otherwise positive results, with underlying organic pre-tax profits up eight per cent to £370.3million.

Meggitt said: “Sector-specific factors including the production halt of the 737 Max and supply chain disruption, as well as the wider macroeconomic impact of Covid-19, are expected to hold back margin progression in the short term.”

Boeing grounded its 737 Max fleet last March after two fatal crashes. The grounding is now expected to remain in place until at least mid-2020.

Despite the headwinds this year and next, Meggitt said it still expects revenue growth in 2021 in the low to mid-single digits and is pencilling in a rise in profit margins, albeit both down from its 2019 performance.

Results for last year showed statutory pre-tax profits jumping 33 per cent to £286.7m and orders 10 per cent ahead at £2.5billion.

Chief executive Tony Wood hailed a better-than-expected set of results and said Meggitt is now a “more focused, higher-quality and more resilient business”.

“We delivered good progress on our strategic initiatives, helping offset the investment made at our fast-growing advanced engine composites sites and headwinds caused by adverse mix, supply and trading environment conditions and the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max,” he said.

Meggitt also separately announced that chairman Sir Nigel Rudd will step down by 2021, but remain in post until a successor is appointed.

He has chaired the FTSE 100-listed group since 2015.