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Kretinsky makes $2.2 billion bid for Atos unit

Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky is in talks to buy Atos’s loss-making legacy operations in a 2 billion-euro ($2.20 billion) deal that will refocus the struggling French company on its cybersecurity and cloud assets, and cut its debt.

Kretinsky, who made his fortune in the energy sector, is expanding his vast empire in Europe and has been on a buying spree in France, setting his eyes on assets ranging from French retailer Casino to Vivendi’s publishing group Editis.

A sale of the Tech Foundations business, which offers infrastructure management services, would end Atos’s initial turnaround plan to split the group into two listed entities.

Following the sale to Kretinsky’s EP Equity Investment (EPEI) vehicle, the Tech Foundations business will use the Atos brand, while the current listed entity will group the assets the French state deems strategic, such as cybersecurity unit BDS and supercomputers, under the name Eviden.

Atos also said on Tuesday that it plans a 900 million-euro share sale to further shore up its balance sheet.

The company said 180 million euros of the shares in the capital raise would be reserved for EPEI, giving it a 7.5% stake in Eviden.

The sale of the remaining 720 million euros of new shares will be underwritten by BNP Paribas and JP Morgan, the company said.

Atos said it aimed to halve its leverage ratio by end 2025 to two times its core operating profits.

The expected sale would bring in 100 million euros in cash and cut 1.9 billion euros worth of liabilities from the tech company’s balance sheet, Atos said.

The sale gives an enterprise value of 2 billion euros to the sold division, which generated 4.5 billion euros of core revenue last year and employs 52,000 people.

Atos’s shares were up by 8% at 0910 GMT. Its stock value has cratered in recent years from almost 100 euros in late 2017 to around 10 euros on Tuesday.

The company had announced a 1.6 billion-euro split in June last year to regain investor confidence after several severe setbacks and governance instability.

Atos also announced the departure of Chief Financial Officer Nathalie Senechault, who had held the top spot for one year. Incoming CFO Paul Saleh, just a few days on the job, was on the call with analysts on Tuesday morning. Reuters

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