DORSET’S defence giant Cobham is to be bought by an American private equity group in a £4billion deal.

An announcement this morning said the board of Cobham was unanimously recommending that shareholders accept the bid agreed with Advent International.

Wimborne-based Cobham, formerly Flight Refuelling, employs almost 1,000 people locally and 10,000 around the world.

The deal will take the company off the London Stock Exchange – where it is a FTSE 250 company – and into private, American-backed ownership.

Cobham chairman Jamie Pike said: "Cobham has leading positions in a number of attractive technology markets, with capabilities and know-how that are well aligned with our customers' priorities.

"The Cobham management team's turnaround actions over the last two and half years have begun to improve our performance, which is reflected in our 2019 interim results announced today. We believe that Advent would provide a complementary partner for Cobham's stakeholders.

“The Cobham Board is unanimously recommending the offer from Advent as it represents an opportunity for shareholders to realise their investment in Cobham in cash in the near term. The offer represents a 50.3 per cent premium to the average share price over the last three months."

The deal offers 165p per share – more than a third up on the 123p price of a Cobham share at close of trading on Wednesday, and 50 per cent above the average share price over the past three months.

Chief executive David Lockwood said: "We have worked intensively over the last two and half years to focus on our customers and our financial and operating performance, and these fundamentals, along with the investment in the business Advent can provide, will enable us to leverage the quality of our products and services.

"Most of all, this offer reflects the potential for future growth and improving performance, and is an endorsement of our turnaround strategy and our hard working people."

Shonnel Malani, a managing director of Advent International plc, said: "We are pleased the board of Cobham has agreed unanimously to recommend the acquisition of Cobham by Advent.

"We strongly believe in the importance and potential of Cobham's businesses and look forward to bringing our long track record of successful stewardship of companies to ensure that Cobham flourishes under our ownership."

Cobham was founded as Flight Refuelling in 1934 and moved to Dorset in 1947. It has known turbulent times in recent years, issuing several profit warnings between 2015 and 2017, but announced earlier this year that it was able to pay a share dividend again.

At the same time as the takeover announcement, it published half-yearly results showing a 12 per cent rise in underlying profit to £107.1million.