Interest in Atos is growing following the French government's offer to take over the strategic activities of the digital services group, which is in serious financial difficulties and has set a deadline of the end of the week for refinancing bids.

The French government has sent Atos a non-binding letter of intent to acquire the group's strategic activities, namely the Advanced Computing, Mission-Critical Systems and Cybersecurity Products divisions of the Big Data and Cybersecurity (BDS) division.

The French Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, has made it clear that the French government would like other industrial groups to join its bid.

Long mooted as a potential candidate for the takeover of certain activities, Thales on Tuesday paved the way for the acquisition of a limited number of Atos' strategic assets.

The defense group, of which the French state is a shareholder, has repeatedly said it was not interested in Atos' BDS business, believing it did not match the strong growth of its civil cybersecurity division.

However, when asked about a possible change of position following the government's intervention, Thales's CFO said the group could look into restricted defense assets if they became available.

"We're not interested in BDS," Pascal Bouchiat told reporters again. "It's true that, within this BDS business, which is essentially a cybersecurity business rather than a services business, there is a business that is much more modest in terms of size, which is a defense and security business," he added, however.

"If, at some point, this particular (defense and security) asset, which represents a minority part of BDS, were up for sale, we wouldn't stop looking at it."

OTHER POTENTIAL CANDIDATES

Pascal Bouchiat declined to say whether the government had already approached Thales about Atos' activities. The French state holds 26% of Thales shares and 35% of voting rights.

According to press reports, in addition to Thales, the Dassault Aviation group is being considered as a potential candidate for the Atos rescue plan.

Dassault Aviation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to information from BFM Business on Tuesday, Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky - who has already been involved in the takeover of another troubled French company, Casino - is to submit a bid for Atos.

Atos and Daniel Kretinsky have already discussed the takeover of the Tech Foundations division, which groups together the French group's historical IT consulting activities, but the operation, which was contested by certain Atos shareholders and political leaders,

failed

earlier this year.

A representative of Daniel Kretinsky declined to comment.

A takeover bid is also expected from the French company Onepoint, Atos' largest shareholder with 11.4% of the capital, which has joined forces with the investment company Butler Industries.

Once a French technology flagship listed on the CAC 40 and headed by the current European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, Atos has grown through acquisitions, but has made one strategic mistake after another against a backdrop of unstable governance.

The group, which has been in discussions with its banks for several weeks to negotiate refinancing, said

Monday

1.1 billion euros in liquidity to finance its business over the period 2024-2025.

(Tim Hepher, Jean Terzian and Blandine Hénault, edited by Kate Entringer)