Airbus Seeks to be Key Investor in Atos' Spun-off Entity

spun-off entity

Airbus, the world’s largest planemaker, is seeking to become the No. 1 investor in Atos’ soon-to-be spun-off division Evidian, France’s beleaguered IT consulting firm said amid scrutiny on an asset deemed strategic by the government.

If successful, the deal would make Airbus the key industrial partner of Evidian and give it a say over the new entity, which regroups Atos’ most coveted assets such as cybersecurity division BDS and supercomputers.

Atos, whose clients include France’s administration and army, would in return secure a much-needed investment from a European industrial group as it strives to carry out its split-up plan after a troubled period marked by a governance crisis, heavy losses and sharp stock price swings.

Atos’ shares were up more than 8% in late morning trading.

Airbus has offered to acquire a 29.9% stake in Evidian, which regroups some of Atos’ most-coveted assets such as cybersecurity division BDS, Atos said in a statement.

The “indicative offer” for the stake — short of the 30% threshold that would automatically trigger a full bid on the entity — was not disclosed. The talks are not exclusive, Atos said.

Atos values Evidian at about 7 billion euros, including a 3- billion-euro debt, a source familiar with the matter said.

At this valuation, a 29.9% share stake in Evidian would cost 1.2 billion euros. Atos’ market capitalisation is close to 1.3 billion. The company declined to comment.

Atos rejected last September an unsolicited offer from rival onepoint and UK private equity fund ICG at an indicative enterprise value of 4.2 billion euros ($4.1 billion).

“Through this proposed large-scale partnership, we would accelerate Evidian’s industrial project and future growth while ensuring technological sovereignty in France and in Europe in the critical fields of cloud, advanced computing, cybersecurity and digitalization,” Atos’ chairman Bertrand Meunier said.

Atos, formed partly by a string of acquisitions made under former CEO Thierry Breton, now EU industry chief and a former French finance minister, has deep links to France’s security world in which the state has the ultimate say over tie-ups.

Atos secures communications for the French military and secret services and manufactures servers to make supercomputers able to process troves of data for research or to develop the nascent artificial intelligence industry.

French former prime minister Edouard Philippe sits on Atos’ board. A spokesperson for the finance ministry declined to comment on the news.

PARIS (Reuters)

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