In the Company of Mavericks

Jeremy McKeown has fascinating conversations with entrepreneurs who dared to be different.

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May 24, 2024

The Changing Shape of the Defence Industry with Nick Prest of Cohort

For this episode, I am joined by Tom Like, an analyst at Singer Capital Markets, for a conversation with Nick Prest, the Founder and Chairman of the defence services and technology company Cohort PLC

Prior to founding Cohort, Nick worked in the Ministry of Defence before joining United Scientific Holdings, later renamed Alvis. A few years later Nick became CEO. 

Alvis was eventually acquired by BAe, and Nick, along with several former Alvis colleagues, set up Cohort in 2006. With a market value of £26m, Cohort aims to provide technical services to the defence industry in the UK and abroad. 

Today, 18 years later, Cohort is the parent company of six operating businesses, providing a wide range of services and products for British and international customers in defence, security, and related markets. Its market capitalisation is £335m. 

In a fascinating discussion, Nick talks about the changing nature of the defence industry over his long career, why he decided to establish Cohort, how he has gone about making acquisitions and the decentralised operating model for the Group, how the listed defence industry has changed, and how our rapidly changing geopolitics is likely to change the operating environment for Cohort in the coming years. 

With defence spending rising up the priority list for all Western countries, the outlook for Cohort and the rest of the defence industry hasn’t looked this good for decades. As he says the expansion of the Chinese navy over the last 20 years is a source of considerable concern to other countries in the region, such as Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, all of which are Cohort customers. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has radically changed perceptions about the need to fund defence budgets further in Europe.    

I began by asking Nick about his background and how and why he came to establish Cohort in 2006.

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