According to Reuters, Thales is working on a plan to buy the cybersecurity business of the Atos group. An operation valued at nearly 2.7 billion euros. However, the presence of foreign investors may put the government in a bind.
Weakened by poor financial results, Atos is whetting appetites. According to Reuters, Thales is considering a plan to buy the IT services company’s cybersecurity business. The defense contractor and its advisor CenterView Partners have approached several investment funds, including Bain Capital (which recently acquired Inetum), CVC Capital Partners and PAI Partners, to consider a joint bid for Atos, which would then be split up. The deal is estimated to be worth nearly €2.7 billion.
Thales could thus take over the BDS (Big Data and Cybersecurity) business. The latter is a legacy of the Bull acquisition. According to a 2019 report, this subsidiary headed until recently by Pierre Barnabé, displayed 6 R&D centers, with more than 5,200 employees and a turnover in 2018 of €1 billion. Its activities are multiple ranging from the implementation of cybersecurity solutions, but also work on critical projects especially in the field of Defense and Big Data with orientations towards quantum and HPC. Atos is due to present the latest generation of its Bull Sequana system next week. Thales and Atos are partners in Athea, the French initiative to challenge Palantir.
A refusal from the French government?
When asked for more information, Thales did not wish to comment and Atos did not respond at the time of writing this article. One thing is for sure, Atos shares have recovered after this announcement, appreciating by more than 10% at 5pm. On the other hand, Thales shares were losing about 3% at the same time.
However, this operation might not happen, because the government would not like to see the sale of a “French champion” to foreign investors. A sensitive issue that is even more delicate a few months before the presidential election. According to sources quoted by Reuters, “the French government will firmly oppose any dismantling of Atos right now”.