The UK's ML group is quitting aviation, with the sale of its aerospace and marine division to the acquisitive Cobham, formerly the FR Group. The £37 million ($23.1 million) acquisition brings with it the Slingsby name and a niche business in weapons-release equipment.

ML Aviation, a major European supplier of weapon-carriage and release systems, is the largest of the four businesses within the division. It has a funded order backlog of more than £40 million and further work in prospect on the Eurofighter EF2000 programme and the GEC-Marconi Brimstone anti-tank missile for the British Army's attack helicopter.

Slingsby's Firefly trainer is also still in the running to replace the Royal Air Force's British Aerospace Bulldogs, with a decision expected by the end of this month. Cobham has agreed to pay an additional £2 million for the company, if it wins.

The ML division includes the Lifeguard safety/survival-equipment business and commercial products, such as underwater vehicles, although Cobham says that it will carry out a review of the operations to see whether they fit within the group.

For Cobham, the deal is the latest move in a string of niche acquisitions on both sides of the Atlantic. By the end of last financial year, the group's sales had climbed to £270 million.

The ML division adds another £42 million to the company's sales and posted pre-tax profits of £11.3 million in 1996.

Source: Flight International