Advent International-backed U.K. defense firm Cobham said it’s weighing an acquisition of Mercury Systems Inc., a U.S. peer that this week announced it’s exploring strategic alternatives.
Shonnel Malani, an Advent managing partner and Cobham’s chairman, said in an interview that the company is looking seriously at Andover, Massachusetts-based Mercury as defense spending increases around the world.
“Mercury would be the perfect fit,” he said. “There are only two mid-tier players worldwide that service the components for radars, which are Cobham and Mercury.”
Malani’s comments come a day after Mercury announced it had begun a strategic review. Shares in the company, which has come under pressure from activists including Elliott Investment Management and Jana Partners, have fallen 11 percent in New York over the last 12 months, giving it a market value of about $2.9 billion.
Mercury is one of the last remaining independent, public suppliers of sophisticated electronics for the aerospace and defense industry. Its clients include the US government, meaning any purchase of could draw oversight from regulators in Washington who’ve been paying closer attention to deals in critical and sensitive industries.
Advent bought Cobham in a £4 billion ($4.9 billion) deal in 2020. It has since been seeking to expand the business via acquisitions, buying British defense firm Ultra Electronics Holdings Plc. Advent has also made an offer for U.S. satellite imagery provider Maxar Technologies Inc.
“Defense spending is increasing and private capital can play a crucial role here,” Malani said. “We’re not just buying companies, we genuinely want to develop them strategically.”