Economy. Atos: senators point to “late intervention” by the state

In its report presented to the Senate on Tuesday, the senatorial information mission responsible for analyzing the problems of Atos highlighted the “late and insufficient intervention of the state” in the matter and put forward eleven proposals to save the French IT giant.

The reporters said they “regret the partial, fragmented and late mobilization of civil services with regard to a strategic undertaking for our national sovereignty and defence”, while Bercy on Sunday expressed his interest in acquiring the sovereign activities of Atos.

The mayor answers

“We have taken all our responsibility towards Atos,” replied Economy Minister Bruno le Maire, who was asked in the Senate by Thierry Meignen (LR), one of the rapporteurs of this information mission.

“It’s not because we do things discreetly that we don’t do them efficiently,” the minister added, pointing out that his departments had been working on this file for months.

“Most stakeholders would prefer a proactive and stabilizing intervention by the state from the second half of 2022,” the reporters said in a press release.

What is the future for Atos?

In addition, the state’s acquisition of Atos’ strategic activities “will not resolve the question of the future of the group”, which they decried, particularly in relation to the Tech Foundations arm, which brings together historical outsourcing activities, some of which are also sovereign in nature, according to reporters.

“Sensitive contracts for our data and our public services are linked to Tech Foundations whose imperviousness to Eviden has not yet been clearly demonstrated,” they pointed out, Eviden brings together cyber security, digital and BDS (big data and security) activities from the company Atos.

They expressed their long-standing fear of a “trial sale” to the company, which would lose its main attractions, such as supercomputers used for nuclear deterrence or cyber security products.

Among their recommendations, the senators recommend the state’s entry into the capital of Atos through an equity investment to guarantee it a seat on the board and to oversee strategic activities while ensuring the viability of the group as a whole.

They are also demanding that Bpifrance take a majority stake in BDS.

In the case of asset sales, the senators want “French industrial buyers to be favoured” to “preserve our competitiveness”.

Decisions challenged between 2008 and 2019

To explain the delicate financial situation of the group, the information mission draws attention to some decisions taken during the presidency of Thierry Breton between 2008 and 2019, questioning in particular “the frequency and number of acquisitions, their purchase price (…) or and the speed and execution of restructurings’ during this period.

They also believe that Atos would make “certain technological turns too late” and that instability at its helm from 2019 led to “short-term financial logic”.
A fact-finding mission by the Senate Economic and Foreign Affairs Committees, which began in February, interviewed 84 people over nearly three months, including Atos president Jean-Pierre Mustier and its chief executive Paul Saleh, on April 10.

The French IT giant has given its creditors until Friday to present proposals for refinancing.

The firm indicated on Monday that it now needs 1.1 billion euros in liquidity for its operations in 2024-2025 and wants to reduce its gross debt by 3.2 billion euros, which is around 5 billion.

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