Atos hires three board directors to stop ship from sinking

One of them, One Point CEO David Layani, tried to buy rudderless integrator

The long-running Atos saga took another twist today after it announced the nomination to its board of One Point CEO David Layani, who previously made an audacious bid for the ailing integrator and outsourcing biz.

Layani is one of three new directors being brought onto the board. One Point already owns 11.4 percent of the Atos Group, and had a €4.2 billion ($4.5 billion) joint bid with private equity fund ICG rejected by Atos in September 2022, on the basis that the terms were not in the best interest of shareholders.

"Having led the growth of Onepoint in France and overseas since 2002, he brings to Atos insights and expertise in the digital transformation and tech industry," Paris Stock Exchange-listed Atos told investors this morning.

Others joining the Atos head shed include Helen Lee Bouygues, president of security LB Associés, who has a background in "organizational transformation, finance and corporate strategy"; and Mandy Metten, currently head of group executives and strategic functions at Atos.

The appointment come a day after Atos confirmed that negotiations with Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský concerning a sale of the Tech Foundations (TF) division to his EP Equity Investment (EPEI) company had failed and were over. The TF business that he was in talks to buy houses the Datacenter and Hosting, Digital Workplace, Unified Comms, and Business Process Outsourcing units.

The start of the current saga started in 2022 following a string of profits and a €1.9 billion ($2.06 billion) goodwill writedown that forced management to rethink corporate strategy. The business initiated a restructure into three business units – cloud, security and digital.

By the summer of that year, the shortlived tenure of CEO Rudolph Belmer was cut short after he quit amid a proposal to split Atos in two – the legacy elements, which became TF; and putting the big data and security business into another vehicle that would be spun out and listed separately of the Paris Exchange called Evidian (initially it was branded Eviden).

Atos then ditched 12,000 staff and hired 16,000 that were mostly based in offshore and nearshore locations to cut costs. Investors called Atos's turnaround attempts too complicated and smelling an opportunity, One Point made its bid.

Airbus then came into the frame as an investor but was warned off by one of its own major shareholders not to get involved, though it is still interested in snaffling the security business from Atos

Křetínský pulling out, as confirmed yesterday, is a major blow to the Atos Group, which has been in talks with its banks over refinancing after a rights issue fell through.

James Preece, analyst at Megabuyte, said today that Atos "continues to hobble closer to the brink," saying that the TF sale could have "absolved it of a painful multi-year turnaround job whilst simultaneously transferring a significant chunk of its debt burden (€1.9 billion)."

"Instead, renewed terms and French government involvement appears to have been sufficient to scupper the deal. Atos now finds itself further down the track with two divisions in dire need of attention and little to no financial wiggle room.

"It's currently one step away from more formal legal proceedings following the appointment of a mandataire ad hoc earlier this month, which seems an inevitability unless it can claw something back from the sale of its BDS (Big Data & Security) division. Airbus is the interested party, but it is also the 'crown jewel' of Atos and something it seemed reluctant to sell previously."

As Georgina O'Toole, analyst at TechMarketView, pointed out last week, the 40+ percent drop in Atos shares over the past year give it a market cap of €271.6 million ($294.5 million) versus its five year high of €9.84 billion ($10.67 billion), as she spoke of its troubles.

"The short-term issue for all parts of Atos – including the UK – is that the uncertainty is now impacting dealings with clients and prospects. This quarter (to end March) is the toughest for the business yet, as the organizations that it deals with start becoming more aware of the refinancing hurdles that the business faces, and delay decisions. The hope will be that we will see some clarity by the springtime, both in terms of the refinancing and the potential sales." ®

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