- Shonnel Malani has overseen the dismemberment of Cobham since taking over.
- Cobham’s operations were sold piece by piece to a series of international buyers.
- Company has no manufacturing presence in UK as geopolitical tensions rise
The private equity boss behind the controversial Cobham demerger is preparing to sell the last remnants of the UK aerospace and defense group.
Shonnel Malani, managing partner of Advent International, has overseen the break-up of Cobham since taking it over for £4bn in 2019.
He told The Mail on Sunday he has no regrets and indicated Advent could soon have more targets in the UK.
Cobham’s extensive operations have been sold piece by piece to a series of international buyers, leaving it without a manufacturing presence in the UK at a time when geopolitical tensions are high and when top military commanders warn that the UK must be prepared for the possibility. of war.
Divided: Cobham’s extensive operations have been sold piece by piece to a series of international buyers.
Malani told The Mail on Sunday: “We are starting to consider exiting the last parts of Cobham, but there is no rush.” For the next year or two it will be fine.”
Lady Cobham, daughter-in-law of the company’s founder Sir Alan Cobham, has been an outspoken critic of the acquisition.
Last night he said: ‘Cobham was a vital contributor to national security in the Cold War, the Falklands campaign and the Gulf Wars. He was part of the national resilience in the face of the crisis.
‘Now it is dismantled to the detriment of that resilience and many people have filled their pockets.
—Isn’t this another case of selling the family silverware?
The rest of Cobham’s business includes CAES, which is behind radar and electronic warfare technology, and Cobham Satcom, a satellite communications company based in Denmark.
These will be sold at a time of rising tensions amid the Ukraine war, tensions between the United States and China and the conflict in the Middle East, all of which puts a premium on defense businesses.
It is unclear who the future buyers might be. Foreign industrial giants and private equity firms have been lining up to snap up other parts of the business.
Seven other divisions have already been sold, reportedly generating almost £6bn, including Paris-based Cobham Aerospace Communications, which was spun off into France’s Thales in an £850m deal agreed last summer. Advent’s takeover of Cobham was strongly opposed by several politicians and military figures.
Their fears about what would happen next were confirmed when Advent began to dissolve the company.
Malani said: “We have made our investors happy.”
He added: ‘Cobham was a large conglomerate, with many disparate companies, which, frankly, was in quite a bit of trouble.
“If we hadn’t bought it about a year later, it probably would have hit some kind of wall and caused some kind of breakout on its own.”
Meanwhile, Boeing had been suing Cobham over delays to its in-flight refueling program, resulting in a settlement that cost the British company more than £80 million.
In 2021, Cobham Mission Systems, which makes air-to-air refueling technology and is based in Wimborne, Dorset, was sold to US-Irish giant Eaton for £2bn.
Advent acquired another British defense company, Ultra Electronics, for £2.6bn in 2022.
Malani said there were no deals “imminent” but there could be opportunities later this year or next.