French state bidding for piece of Atos, offers €700M

Big data + security division could be owed by the government and its people

The French government has confirmed an offer of €700 million ($748 million) for key assets of ailing IT services giant Atos, following the company’s acceptance of a restructuring deal earlier this week.

Atos, which has struggled with debt, declining revenue, and rising losses in recent years, said it received a non-binding confirmatory offer from the French state following earlier discussions between the two.

The French government issued a letter of intent in April regarding the potential acquisition of key assets from Atos out of its Big Data & Security (BDS) division, in order to keep them under France's control in case Atos should collapse.

These assets include the Advanced Computing, Mission-Critical Systems and Cybersecurity activities of the company's BDS (Big Data & Cybersecurity) division, which are involved in IT projects for the French military and other areas of the state.

According to Atos, its management and board of directors are now set to discuss this proposal with the French government, under the aegis of the Conciliator Maître Hélène Bourbouloux. There is no guarantee that negotiations will succeed and that the parties will enter into a definitive agreement, it added.

Atos accepted the bailout proposal led by its largest shareholder Onepoint earlier this week, saying that it would provide for a restructuring of the company’s financial debt, ensure a stronger capital structure, and deliver adequate financial liquidity to fund the business.

The restructure deal is understood to have the support of a number of creditors, lending confidence that a definitive agreement will be reached.

"The Company confirms its objective of reaching a definitive financial restructuring agreement with the Onepoint consortium and its financial creditors, which will then be implemented through a dedicated accelerated procedure by July 2024," Atos told the Paris Stock Exchange today.

Also this week, Atos said it has entered into negotiations with engineering and IT services outfit Alten SA to sell its Worldgrid business unit for €270 million ($288 million). Worldgrid provides consulting and engineering services to energy and utility companies, currently employing about 1,100 workers.

The transaction is expected to close before the end of 2024, subject to regulatory approval and other conditions, Atos said.

"It's been an eventful week for Atos, but certainly one where progress has been made," commented TechMarketView Chief Research Officer Kate Hanaghan.

She noted that Airbus ended its own discussions to buy the BDS unit back in March, sending shares down 20 percent.

"Conversely, Atos shares today took a relieved leap upwards of a little over 16 percent (at time of writing) in response to the news of a potential acquisition," she added. ®

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