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As French bureaucrats squabble, IT outsourcer Atos ditches rights offering, sinks to record lows

Atos employs over 105,000 staff; handling tasks as eclectic as running 111 data centres in 43 countries, and building hardware for the French military.

Chaos at French multinational Atos continued this week after it cancelled a €720 million raise and called in help with refinancing from mediators.

French policymakers meanwhile continued to maul their government over plans to sell half of the company to Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský, citing sovereignty issues and Atos’s sensitive digital and military contracts.

 Shares crashed to a record low of €2.94, from highs of €81 in 2020.

Conversations with France's Airbus over the potential €1.5-€1.8 billion acquisition of its Big Data & Security business continue meanwhile.

The company, which runs data centres and some major IT workloads for the French government as well as swathes of private sector clients, has €1.25 billion of bonds and €2.4 billion in bank debt maturing next year. 

It had planned a rights offering (or a capital raising opportunity which is not dilutive to existing shareholders) but that is now toast, it admitted. 

Plans to sell off half the company (the segment running its traditional IT facilities, rebranded “Tech Foundations”) to Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky’s EPEI for €2 billion meanwhile continue to face headwinds.

“There is no certainty that these negotiations will result in an agreement” Atos said on February 5 – after Bloomberg reported in January 2024 that Atos had asked for €500 million more than the original agreement.

Olivier Marleix, who leads the conservative Les Republicains in France‘s lower house, has been among the French MPs agitating against the sale: “Atos is at the heart of French sovereignty and will be even more so in a world that increasingly relies on artificial intelligence” he told Bloomberg.

Atos’s more future-looking operations now sit in an entity called “Eviden.” Kretinsky is also grappling to gain a stake in that business – which last month signed a collaborative agreement with Microsoft following last year's similar agreement with AWS which aims to upskill staff and provide discounted cloud deals for Atos's on-premises customers moving to the cloud.

Atos, the broader entity, employs over 105,000 staff; handling tasks as eclectic as running 111 data centres in 43 countries, operating disability benefits assessments, and building hardware for the French military.

In June 2022 it told its investors that it had a “fragmented portfolio”, “high use of subcontractors”, a “significant number of red contracts”, and “low productivity and inadequate skill-set of commercial resources.”

 Křetínský, the controlling shareholder of vehicle EPEI said at the time that his buyout “represents a great opportunity for us to invest in large-scale European IT infrastructure and services…The fact that critical data storing infrastructure for European clients is located in the EU and operated by the EU company is and will be an essential cybersecurity prerequisite… this strategic move aligns perfectly with our long-term investment vision.”

See also: The Big Interview: Can new Atos CEO Nourdine Bihmane fix the troubled outsourcer?