Cobham flexes muscles with record £38.4m interim profit

AEROSPACE: UK aviation and defence specialist says more acquisitions in pipeline

COBHAM set out its stall as predator rather than prey in the consolidation of the aerospace industry when it unveiled record interim profits.

The specialist aviation and defence group increased turnover by almost a quarter, and pre-tax profits by a fifth to £38.4m, as the company strengthened its position in its major markets.

These markets include flight refuelling, in which Cobham is a world leader, and antennae, a business the company expects to grow rapidly as demand formultimedia services increases.

The Dorset-based company now has record order books of £1.3bn, up from £700m for the same period last year, and counts Boeing and Airbus among its most significant customers.

Cobham claims its healthy growth prospects will allow it to play a leading role in the consolidation currently under way in the aerospace industry.

The company expects to make further significant acquisitions in the near future, almostcertainly in the UK or US, and chief executive Gordon Page said Cobham’should be much bigger by next year’.

Organic growth is beingdriven by a number of areas. Its helicopter-capable refuelling pod has now obtained production clearance for the KC130J craft used by the US Marines and Italian Air Force, and is undergoing testing for the US Special Forces.

The company said these programmes should lead to substantial production orders.

Chelton, Cobham’s antenna business, has entered a long-term collaboration agreement with BAE Systems in the field of advanced composite structures. The deal follows Cobham’s recent acquisition of BAE Systems’aircraft radome business, which makes the protective coverings for antennae.

Its US and European-based microwave companies have both seen a strong upturn in demand, particularly for satellite-related programmes. Cobham recently bought the Australian National Jet Systems, enabling it to expand there and in the Far East. New contracts have also been signed with the Malaysian Navy and Air Force for airborne target tow and electronic warfare training.