INTERVIEW | INDUSTRY
SP’s Aviation spoke to Robert Mullins, Executive Vice President, Strategy, Portfolio & Business Development, Cobham Plc and H. Shankar Managing Director, Cobham India, to know more about the company’s global and India strategies.
SP’s Aviation (SP’s): As a global enterprise with a presence in over 100 countries, what are Cobham’s strengths and growth strategies for the future?
Robert Mullins (Mullins): We intend to grow both organically and through acquisitions to increase our exposure to commercial connectivity markets. Our organic growth is driven by our aerial refuelling programmes and aviation services. Acquisitions like Aeroflex, Axell Wireless and Thrane & Thrane have increased our market positions in commercial wireless and satellite communications.
SP’s: Would you say Cobham’s M&A strategy is based on acquiring technology, improving market share or increasing its global footprint?
Mullins: Our acquisitions are focused on broadening our product portfolio and improving market share. With the Thrane acquisition, Cobham is now a market leader for maritime satellite communications products. We anticipate growth driven by the upcoming global entry into service of the Inmarsat Global Xpress satellite constellation, as customers upgrade to take advantage of its global coverage and high performance download speeds. Cobham is an approved supplier of SATCOM antennas for the Telenor Thor 7 broadband SATCOM service expected to be launched end 2015. This represents a further growth opportunity for Ka-band SAILOR 800 and 900 antenna types.
SP’s: What products/solutions Cobham has for ‘networked-environment’ and what are the developments taking place in to factor in unmanned aerial vehicles in that space?
Mullins: Cobham is a supplier to numerous UAV programmes in the US and UK, providing data links, antennas and other sensor-related products for use as part of their payloads. Cobham continues to be interested in the ‘Internet of Things’ concept, and products brought into our portfolio through the Aeroflex and Axell Wireless acquisitions will assist us in extending connectivity solutions. An example of this is Cobham’s investment in automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) in/out antennas to support improved aircraft communication and positional data.
SP’s: What are the latest offerings from Cobham in military communications?
Mullins: Cobham continues to provide a number of military communications products and now, with the acquisition of Aeroflex, we can provide test and measurement solutions to ensure those radios are performing as intended and required.
SP’s: Could you explain how strategically important is Asia-Pacific?
Mullins: Cobham opened a facility in Singapore which brings together the Cobham Group’s Antenna Systems, AvComm, SATCOM, Tactical Communications & Surveillance (TCS) and Wireless business units. The region contributes significant revenues, making Asia-Pacific one of Cobham’s most important and rapidly expanding markets. Almost every Asia-Pacific country is a possible market for Cobham. For example, South Korea and Australia both recently announced that they would be ordering Airbus A330MRTT aircraft. Cobham supplies the hose and drogue aerial refuelling system used on this aircraft.
SP’s: Can you elaborate on your presence in India and the programmes you are participating in?
Shankar: We have a reasonably sized team based out of Delhi and Bengaluru and have close working relationships with HAL, BEL and the Indian armed forces. Our products and technologies form part of almost every aircraft in the Indian Air Force’s inventory. We are supporting the LCA programme. We are also participating in most of the programmes originating from HAL. We have a significant presence in some of the recently acquired aircrafts as well as those in the pipeline such as C-130, Pilatus, Apache, Chinook, MRTT, etc.
SP’s: What is your strategy for developing the Indian market in the context of the ‘Make in India’ initiative?
Shankar: Cobham fully supports the Indian Government’s initiative of building aerospace and defence industry. We are looking at areas where we can work together with Indian companies. The FICV, BMS and TCS are large programmes under the “Make in India” category and we are in dialogue with companies in identifying technologies and products that could be inserted into these programmes through local partnerships. We are convinced about Indian aerospace companies’ capabilities in manufacturing and in providing engineering services; India is now a part of our global sourcing strategy. We have an agreement with TASL for manufacture of our refuelling pods structures; these are not specific to India but for our global programmes.