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Airbus in talks to buy 30% chunk of Atos's breakaway cybersecurity biz

Well... that's one way to retain data sovereignty

Top brass at French IT supplier Atos are mulling an offer from Airbus to buy a minority stake in Evidian – the digital, security and big data unit that is scheduled to uncouple from the troubled tech biz later this year.

The pair opened talks last month and are now moving to a more advanced stage, though there is still no certainty that a final agreement will be reached.

In a message to investors today, Atos confirmed it has received an indicative offer from Airbus to buy a 29.9 percent shareholding in Evidian, as well as to enter into a "long-term strategic and technological partnership." Atos said it will now conduct a due diligence process and thrash out the terms.

Despite the flirtations, the outsourcing and tech business is not granting exclusivity to Airbus yet, and is still open to getting indications of interest from potential investors that can "support a major financial and industrial project."

"Airbus' interest in becoming an anchor shareholder is an acknowledgment of Evidian's unique capabilities in an increasingly complex digital environment with heightened security challenges," said Atos chairman Bertrand Meunier.

"Through this proposed large-scale partnership, we would accelerate Evidian's industrial project and further growth while ensuring technological sovereignty in France and in Europe in the critical fields of cloud, advanced computing, cybersecurity and digitalization."

There is demand for data sovereignty in the region yet even financial institutions are throwing their lot in with the big US public cloud providers, the top six of which account for almost three-quarters of public cloud spending in Europe. Atos is behind the maker of supercomputer hardware, and recently won a €20 million ($21 million) contract with the Max Planck Society.

Atos began the process of bifurcation last summer after a bid for DXC Technology failed at the start of 2022. The remaining bits of Atos not moving to Evidian include the datacenter, hosting, digital workplace, unified comms and business process outsourcing units. The rate of revenue decline in this area slowed in Atos's Q3.

The two-way split at Atos is similar to action taken by IBM and HPE to carve off their infrastructure services divisions: both units were turning over less and less as customers ditched big outsourcing contracts in the move to the cloud.

In its Q3, Atos reported group turnover of €2.818 billion ($3 billion), up 2.1 percent, helped by a 7.3 percent bounce in Evidian to €1.278 billion ($1.365 billion) and €1.54 billion ($1.64 billion) from the legacy Atos business, now known as Tech Foundations Perimeter.

The plan is to float Evidian on the Paris stock exchange later this year, assuming Atos can agree terms with Airbus and other potential suitors. ®

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