Atos Shares Plunge Amidst Reorganisation, CEO Exit

Shares in French IT security and services company Atos plunged the most on record in early trading on Monday after it said it was considering a major restructuring plan and with the surprise exit of its chief executive after only five months.

The firm’s shares fell up to 27 percent in early Paris trading before stabilising at around 15 euros by late morning, roughly 20 percent below their opening price.

The departure of chief executive Rodolphe Belmer, former head of Eutelsat and media group Canal+, was announced only an hour before a capital market day at which investors had anticipated a recovery plan.

Atos has seen a series of setbacks over the past year that have wiped out two-thirds of its market value, removing it from the benchmark CAC 40 index and taking it from a 8.2 billion euro (£7bn) market valuation at the end of 2020 to 2.1bn euros today.

‘No choice but to resign’

Belmer, appointed in January to help move on from problems that included the discovery of accounting errors and a failed attempt to acquire a US company, is to leave the company on 30 September.

His departure follows weeks of reports of board divisions over Atos’ future strategy.

Belmer said he had “no choice but to resign” following the proposed reorganisation.

Atos said it is considering spinning off BDS, its Big Data & Cybersecurity unit, and combining it with its digital transformation services business.

The new company would be publicly listed before the second half of 2023 under the name Evidian.

The move would isolate the declining outsourcing unit, which made up 52 percent of sales in 2021.

But it would also link Atos’ crown jewel, its security business, to the transformation services that have not grown as quickly, some industry analysts noted.

The outsourcing business would retain the Atos name, and Atos would hold a 70 percent stake in Evidian, the company said.

Reorganisation

Atos said it has appointed Philippe Oliva as deputy chief executive of the BDS unit and Nourdine Bihmane as deputy chief of the legacy business.

The project would require an estimated funding of 1.6bn euros for the 2022 to 2023 period, partly supplied by the sale of 700m euros of non-core assets, Belmer said on Tuesday in a call with reporters.

Atos has already sold its 2.5 percent stake in payments company Worldline for 220m euros as part of the disposals plan.

The company said it aims for the legacy business to return to growth and profits by 2026.

Belmer was entitled to two-year severance pay in case of departure within two years, but said he proposed to leave with 9 months of salary.

He said the reorganisation was the board’s “decision” and declined to comment about reported disagreements with the board over strategy.

The decline in Atos’ shares has reportedly fuelled takeover interest from the likes of rival Thales.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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