Yorkshire industrial group William Cook acquires County Durham military track manufacturer Astrum (UK)

Wednesday 2nd November 2011

Industrial group William Cook Holdings has acquired military vehicle track manufacturer Astrum (UK) from joint administrators for an undisclosed sum.

Astrum (UK) is the former William Cook Defence business, part of the William Cook group, which was sold in a management buyout in 2006.

It specialises in the design and manufacture of tracks for military vehicles and is a major supplier to the British Army. It is located in Stanhope, County Durham and employs around 200 people.

Family-owned steel and engineering company The William Cook group, which has two plants in Sheffield and one in Leeds, has annual sales of £60m and a staff of approximately 700 people.

The joint administrators of Astrum Holdings, the parent company of Astrum (UK), were Hunter Kelly and Charles King of Ernst & Young.

Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook, said: “I am delighted Astrum is re-joining the William Cook group after a five year absence. Its Stanhope plant always was a major player in the Cook organisation, and I look forward to it again becoming a key element of our growing company.

“It is particularly satisfying that, with Astrum back in William Cook ownership, the valuable jobs and expertise at the Stanhope plant are once again secure.”

Mark Clephan, of Ernst & Young’s M&A team, who led the sales process, said: “Astrum is a company with a fantastic heritage and a market leader within the defence sector. In its field the business is a leading supplier to the MoD and has seen good export growth in recent years.

“William Cook, the former owner of the business, has a fine industrial heritage of its own and is well capitalised to invest further in Astrum and build on its capabilities.”

William Cook already has an established presence in the defence equipment market through its subsidiary Cook Defence Systems and its position as the exclusive UK licensee for Diehl Defence Land Systems, the European leader in military vehicle tracks.

The acquisition of Astrum is expected to reinforce the breadth and depth of its capabilities.

Rod Wilkinson, KPMG corporate finance partner who led a multidisciplinary team on the transaction, said: “William Cook is a longstanding client of KPMG and we are very pleased to have advised on the return of this well respected North East engineering business to the group.”

John Holden and Jonathan Asquez provided legal advice to William Cook.

Mr Holden said: “We have enjoyed helping deliver this transaction for Andrew and the William Cook group and we are looking forward to seeing the next stage of growth for the enlarged group.”

The Joint administrators were advised by Simon Clark and Claire Askew of Walker Morris.