Home Money ALEX BRUMMER: A private equity firm is selling Cobham’s disparate parts at pace – the Government must act

ALEX BRUMMER: A private equity firm is selling Cobham’s disparate parts at pace – the Government must act

by Elijah
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In focus: Britain's defense capabilities have never been more important, says Alex Brummer

At a time of geopolitical conflict, Britain’s defense capabilities have never been more important.

The UK is playing a vital role in Ukraine, providing training and weapons to the country’s military as it seeks to push back the Russian attack.

In the Middle East, RAF Typhoon aircraft, operating from Cyprus, have been making the arduous 3,000-mile journey to Yemen to attack Houthi rebels who threaten freedom of passage across the Red Sea.

In focus: Britain’s defense capabilities have never been more important, says Alex Brummer

It’s air travel only made possible by refueling technology developed by aviation innovator Sir Alan Cobham.

How extraordinary it is that at a time when command and control over Britain’s defenses is so vital to our national security, critical technologies, developed at Wimborne-based Cobham plc, have been allowed to fall into the hands of vulture capital private Advent.

It is a team dedicated to achieving quick profits for investors and tax-advantaged returns for partners.

Advent International managing partner Shonnel Malani makes no apologies for the rapid way in which a UK aerospace champion, bought for £4bn in 2019, has been dismantled, “making our investors happy”.

It claims to have fundamentally improved Britain’s defense supply chain. Selling Cobham’s in-flight refueling system to Irish-American competitor Eaton for £2bn may seem like it poses no threat to the UK: after all, the Americans are our allies in protecting UK shipping. Red Sea.

The reality is that Britain has handed over proprietary technology, vital research and development and patents to an Irish-American giant and blown a hole in the nation’s sovereignty and capability.

Conflict: RAF Typhoon jets have been making the arduous 3,000-mile journey to Yemen to attack Houthi rebels.

Conflict: RAF Typhoon jets have been making the arduous 3,000-mile journey to Yemen to attack Houthi rebels.

For the time being, jobs in Dorset may be protected, but from now on decisions on workforce, R&D and investment will be made at Eaton’s dual headquarters in Dublin and Ohio.

Furthermore, Ireland’s foreign policy and its views on the Middle East differ greatly from those of the United Kingdom, which could potentially harm the United Kingdom’s freedom of action.

It’s easy for Advent to argue that it has done Cobham a huge favor by selling off its disparate parts so quickly.

The reality is that Advent and other private equity firms rarely build businesses.

The goal is to buy undervalued assets, deprive existing shareholders of an advantage to which they are entitled, and get rid of them as quickly as possible, making the often super-rich investors richer and richer.

A pattern of ruthless cost-cutting, particularly in technology companies, is rarely a positive.

Advent, after dismantling Cobham, has also been authorized by UK public investors, a limp board and the government to gobble up another defense gem, Ultra Electronics.

Its advanced sonar technology is capable of detecting enemy submarines leading to their capture and destruction. With each aerospace and electronics takeover, the UK armed forces are undermined.

At this time of supreme international danger, current and future governments must invoke the National Investment and Securities Law to protect what remains of our diminished defense actors.

Cash, private capital greed and foreign ownership must no longer be allowed to go against the public interest.

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