Judgment day for Atos as split plan and CEO exit spook investors

  • Belmer to step down just 9 months after taking over as CEO
  • Atos will split the BDS cybersecurity unit
  • Plans the sale of assets worth 700 million euros
  • Stocks fall 27%

PARIS, June 14 (Reuters) – French IT company Atos (ATOS.PA) spooked investors on Tuesday with a plan to spin off its business and sell assets and the departure of CEO Rodolphe Belmer, sending its shares tumbling. more than 25%.

The departure of Belmer, who took over in January, follows weeks of reports from board divisions about the company’s overhaul.

Belmer and the board clashed over the fate of the BDS cybersecurity unit, sources familiar with the matter said, because he was prepared to sell the company while the board wanted to keep it.

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Atos is considered strategic by the French government for its high-tech assets such as the manufacture of supercomputers and software used by the army and the Ministry of Finance to manage tax collection. Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe sits on its board of directors.

Belmer’s departure was announced just an hour before a capital market day that investors hoped could restore confidence after a series of setbacks wiped out two-thirds of Atos’ market value over the past year. past year,

Belmer, the former boss of satellite company Eutelsat (ETL.PA), will leave Atos on September 30.

SPLIT-UP Atos plans to split into two publicly traded entities and has announced that it has appointed two deputy chief executives, Nourdine Bihmane and Philippe Oliva, to lead each.

The split would aim to “unlock value” as part of a larger plan that would cost around 1.6 billion euros in 2022-23, the company said.

Atos will sell assets worth around 700 million euros, Belmer said Tuesday in a call with reporters.

It has already sold its 2.5% stake in payments company Worldline (WLN.PA) as part of its disposal plan, raising 220 million euros.

As part of the split, Atos plans to split and combine BDS with its services businesses, including those aimed at helping customers move to the cloud.

Called Evidian, these combined operations generated 4.9 billion euros in revenue in 2021, up 5% compared to the previous year, and an operating margin of 7.8%.

The remaining part of Atos will include its declining and loss-making IT infrastructure management services, which had revenue of 5.4 billion euros last year.

Atos said it aims to return to growth and profit from these businesses by 2026.

When asked if he would benefit from the two-year severance package approved by shareholders in the event of the CEO’s abrupt departure within two years, Belmer said he had offered to leave with 9 months of salary.

Previously boss of the Vivendi-owned Canal+ pay-TV channel, Belmer had promised Atos a fresh start after accounting errors and a failed takeover bid of a US company shook investor confidence.

Atos’ weak stock made it vulnerable to takeover rumours.

On Monday, the shares fell more than 10%, following a media report on his future strategy.

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Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; additional reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Nicolas Delame; edited by Bradley Perrett and Jason Neely

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