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Day of reckoning for Atos as split-up plan, CEO exit spook investors -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Atos’ logo was exhibited at the Eurosatory defence and security show in Villepinte near Paris on June 13, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

By Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters).-French IT firm Atos spooked investors Tuesday with a plan for splitting its operations and selling assets. Rodolphe Belmer was also leaving, sending Atos shares plummeting more than 25%.

After weeks of reporting from board divisions about the restructuring of the company, Belmer resigned in January.

According to sources, Belmer clashed with the board over cybersecurity unit BDS’ fate. He was prepared to sell it while the board wanted to keep it.

French authorities consider Atos strategic for its high tech assets. These include supercomputers, software that is used to collect taxes and software designed by finance ministers. Its board includes Edouard Philippe, former prime minister.

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Belmer’s exit was announced an hour before the capital market day. This is a market that investors hope will restore investor confidence following a string of setbacks over which Atos has lost two-thirds its market value in the last year.

Belmer will be departing Atos as the ex-head of Eutelsat’s satellite company on September 30. Atos shares dropped as high as 27% during early Paris trading and fell almost 20% by 0742 GMT.

SPLIT UPAtos said that the company plans to separate into two publicly-listed entities. It also announced it had named Philippe Oliva and Nourdine Bihmane as its deputy CEOs.

According to the company, this split is intended to “unlock value”, as part of an overall plan which would run at around 1.6 billion euro in 2022-2023.

Belmer stated Tuesday that Atos would sell assets in the range of 700 million euros during a conference call with journalists.

As part of its disposals plans, it has already sold 2.5% stake at Worldline payments company to raise 220 millions euros.

Atos will be combining its BDS operations with those of other services companies as part of the split-up. These include those that help customers migrate to the cloud.

The operations are collectively called Evidian and generated an estimated 4.9 billion euros of revenue in 2021. That’s an increase in revenue by 5% over last year. It also had an operating margin at 7.8%.

Atos’ remaining portion will consist of the declining, loss-making IT infrastructure management service which generated 5.4 billion Euros in sales last year.

Atos claimed it would return to profit and growth for the activities in 2026.

Belmer was asked if he would be able to take advantage of the 2-year severance payment approved by shareholders in the event of the sudden departure of the CEO after two years. He said that he proposed leaving with nine months of salary.

Belmer was the former boss of Canal+ pay-TV station Vivendi. He had previously promised a new start to Atos, after financial errors and a failed effort to purchase a U.S. firm.

Atos shares are weak and make it susceptible to takeover rumours.

After a media report on its future strategy, Monday’s shares dropped more than 10%.