A takeover bid for Ultra Electronics at some point will probably have come as little surprise to those that have known and followed this interesting and extremely important manufacturer of defence and aerospace electronics components, security critical detection and control equipment. However, that a bid valuing Ultra at £2.58 billion should have come from what remains of Cobham, a company that was itself taken over by private equity company Advent International only last year will have surprised many.
My understanding is that the Ultra Electronics Board are ‘minded’ to accept what on the face of it appears to be a decent offer from Cobham.
With Cobham having itself been taken over by Advent last year and now engaging in its first takeover move has actually come as little surprise to me. I will however keep my powder dry for now apart from saying that this move by Cobham/Advent is yet another sign that consolidation within the aerospace and defence industries isn’t over yet.
Whether there are any national interest reasons to halt any bid remain to be seen but on the balance of probability, other than those that would have already been fully protected by the MOD, I doubt that there are, Even so, that is not to suggest that I am supportive of the ease at which foreign take-overs of UK defence related companies occur but it is to say that I am prepared to treat each one on its specific merits.
That said, we need always to remember that specialist manufacturing companies in the UK often find themselves hampered in raising funds for research, development and expansion by having to continually look over their shoulders at shareholders who look only for a quick return. Sometimes the future really can be better and brighter outside of stock market constraints.
Founded in 1920 and headquartered in London, Ultra Electronics CEO is Simon Pryce and its Chairman, Tony Rice, himself being a former CEO of Cable & Wireless and Tunstall and many years earlier a senior member of BAE Systems. CEO Simon Pryce is a former CEO of BBA Aviation and a former senior executive of GKN.
The company was formed in 1925 under the name Ultra Electric by Ted Rosen. Initially the company manufactured domestic radios. During World War 2 Ultra began manufacturing aircraft parts for all of the significant RAF aircraft. In 1961 the domestic television and radio business was sold and the first Ultra Electronics Ltd. (UEL) was formed.
In parallel Sir George Dowty was developing the Dowty Company. Dowty PLC acquired Ultra in 1977. The Dowty Group was then acquired by the TI Group Plc in 1992. TI Group Plc sold virtually all of the Electronics Systems Division companies of the Dowty Group to a management buy-out team led by Dr. Julian Blogh, to form the second Ultra Electronics Ltd. Company in 1993. The company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1996 as Ultra Electronics Holdings PLC.
Today Ultra Electronics Ltd may be described as a group of specialist businesses, located across the world, that design, manufacture, supply and support electronic and electro-mechanical systems, sub-systems and products for defence, security, cyber, transport, energy and aerospace applications
Over the years, Ultra Precision Control Systems has developed a dedicated and highly 2017 the Rugeley, Staffordshire expertise in a number of key disciplines:
Analogue and digital circuit design to any Design Assurance Level (DAL)
System architecture and algorithm design to any DAL
Verification, certification and qualification of hardware and software to any DAL
Design of systems installations and systems integration
Power control design
Motor control design
Design for harsh environments and high reliability
Field support of systems
Broken down further this includes position sensing and control, pneumatic solutions, ice protection systems, noise and vibration systems, propeller control and balancing, cockpit equipment, ground crew interfaces, motor & power control, High integrity harnesses and dressings, fuel flammability reduction systems, ground test equipment, power management, crew station equipment, fire control products, low situational awareness, generic vehicle architectures and finally, UltraLYNX – Dismounted Soldier Architecture or Wearable Power and Data Architecture if you prefer and which is stated to be the definitive standard for future soldier systems that provides a truly integrated and open systems solution or translated, improving how we fit technology and increase capability such as situational awareness onto the soldier.
Ultra Electronics has been one of those highly specialist defence, aerospace and security companies that has preferred to stay out of the limelight. Low profile it may be but its products and components can be found right across defence applications with fast jet aircraft including Typhoon and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and across the whole land, air, sea and security elements of defence.
Ultra Electronics, Precision Control Systems
Precision Control Systems is a provider of high integrity control products for aerospace, military vehicle and soldier applications. Equipment and capabilities span the complete product lifecycle; design, development, production and support. The company has over 50 years of experience in the industry and include most of the world’s aircraft manufacturers, hundreds of airlines, and many of the world’s largest defense contractors. Precision Control Systems has locations across six sites, four of which are in the UK: Cheltenham Spa, Greenford, Cambridge, and Preston and two are in the USA: Manhattan, KS and Columbia City, IN
In respect of Air systems supplied to the wider aerospace industry Ultra Electronics Precision Control Systems supports its military and civil aerospace customers by providing innovative electronic, electro-mechanical and pneumatic solutions for safety critical and high integrity applications. Products range from high integrity electronic controllers to advanced pneumatic systems. These can be found in harsh external and engine mounted environments, and we are used to meeting the exacting standards of the world’s largest aerospace customers. Not surprisingly, extensive environmental test facilities are available in-house for product testing.
In regard of LAND equipment Ultra Electronics Precision Control Systems provides equipment for modern military vehicles designed to improve their reliability and performance whilst reducing the burden on their operators and maintainers.
Ultra’s Generic Vehicle Architecture (GVA) solutions allow customers to apply in-country equipment to platforms without the integration issues that would have traditionally been a problem. The state-of-the-art wearable technology produced for soldiers and first-responders allows for better situational awareness, lower kit weight and greater flexibility and versatility. New equipment can be easily integrated to the system to increase operational performance.
In 2016 Ultra Electronics found itself in a difficult position, one that would clearly require major transformation work. A proposed merger with Sparton was ditched and the company announced that Simon Pryce was brought in as CEO effective June 2018. Later that same year the company sold its Airport Systems business for £22m.
In 2017 the Rugeley, Staffordshire PMES business 250 people won a £37 million contract from BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines to complete development and start production of a hybrid electric propulsion system for a UK naval defence programme.
CHW (London – 23rd July 2021)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785