Eaton buys Cobham air refueling arm for $3bn as Advent sell-off begins

Engineering firm Eaton today announced that it would buy Cobham’s air-to-air refueling arm for $2.8bn (£2bn).

The deal values Cobham Mission Systems at about 14 times its 2020 earnings.

US private equity firm Advent bought Cobham last year and proceeded to split it into nine divisions, of which Mission Systems was one.

Opponents of the £4bn deal predicted that the fund had done so in order to sell off the company division by division.

Such a move had been anticipated by Lady Nadine Cobham, the widow of Sir Michael Cobham, the British aviation firm’s former chief executive.

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At the time, she told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s an opportune moment for Advent to pounce and the reality is that Advent will break up Cobham and sell off its parts to the highest bidder.

“This may well include air-to-air refuelling, which is a real shocker.”

Dublin-based Eaton makes explosion-proof instrumentation, pumps, motors and hydraulic power units.

It said that the deal, which is expected to close in the second half of the year, would strengthen its aerospace business.