In the aerospace and defense industries Cobham is all over the map. Serving customers in more than a hundred countries, Cobham provides technology and services to keep clients in touch, in the air, and under control. Its Defense Systems division provides technology that underlies network centric and intelligence operations, while Aerospace and Security makes end-to-end avionics and communications equipment for law enforcement, national security, and satellite applications. Mission Systems crafts aircraft oxygen, cooling, and escape systems; air-to-air refueling equipment; and weapons carriage/release systems. Aviation Services provides maintenance, modification, and training services for military aircraft and crews.
Mid-Air refueling is among the services offered by the company and modern long-distance aviators can thank for its pioneer, Alan Cobham for the idea. The company that bears his name intends to continue flying solo in the rapidly consolidating global aerospace and defense industry. Historically, Cobham has adjusted its products and services mix through strategic acquisitions and divestitures of small and midsized businesses, considered non-core by rivals. Customers include aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Embraer and government defense agencies around the world.
Cobham's core capabilities encompass the C4ISR concept of "Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance," and it is focused on the defense and security sectors. US Defense business accounts for 44% of sales and the company's non-US defense sales contribute another 28% making these customers and products key to the company's future. Cobham also works as a subcontractor to provide components and parts for other major contractors such as Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.
Not shy with the checkbook Cobham has made more than 50 acquisitions in the last decade. Most recently the company has built on to its stateside presence through acquisitions, and in 2010-2011 it added three companies to its US holdings. In December 2010 it picked up California-based surveillance firm RVision for $48 million. RVision designs and manufactures electro-optical and infrared imaging systems, such as ruggedized pan/tilt/zoom cameras, and tactical video hardware. A couple of months later it bought Baltimore's Corp Ten International for $11.5 million. Corp Ten makes software for GPS systems to track assets; its products complement Cobham's audio and visual surveillance products. In October 2011 it bought California-based Trivec-Avant Corporation for $144 million. Trivec-Avant makes antennas for satellites.
Looking to build its Mission Systems division, Cobham paid €78 million ($124 million) in early 2011 for Telerob, a German manufacturer of bomb disposal robots and threat response vehicles. Cobham will integrate its technology into Telerob systems to yield a more unique and competitive product. The company has also made an offer to buy the shares of satellite telecommunications equipment maker Thrane & Thrane that it does not already own.
The company has also made a number of divestments as its looks to exit businesses that don't fit within its defense and security strategy such as its Analytic Solutions business (sold in 2011 for $350 million). However, the decision to sell weapons designer SPARTA to Parsons Corporation for $350 million in cash in October 2011 had more to do with changes to the US government's Organization Conflict of Interest rules than with business operations. Early in 2011 Cobham also sold its UK-based Engineering Consultancy Group for €13.5 million ($22 million). The Group worked with third-party customers in non-core markets such as heavy engineering and infrastructure. French subsidiary Satori SAS was sold in September 2010. Satori provided aircraft maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) services to third-party customers. The divestment was part of a larger effort to close or relocate small operating sites.