Jean-Pierre Mustier, a prominent figure in the banking industry and former CEO of Italian bank UniCredit, is assuming the position of Chairman of Atos’ board of directors. This move comes as Atos, a crisis-ridden French IT consulting group, strives to secure a contentious deal with Czech tycoon Daniel Kretinsky.
Bertrand Meunier, who faced criticism from multiple minority shareholders for Atos’ decision to abandon its initial plan of splitting the company into two listed entities in favor of selling its largest division to Kretinsky, is being replaced by Mustier. This announcement led to an increase in the company’s share price.
Mustier, who is recognized for his role in strengthening UniCredit’s financial position, is entrusted with the responsibility of rebuilding investor confidence following a governance crisis and a series of setbacks that significantly reduced the value of Atos’ shares, which are currently trading close to their all-time lows.
At the start of trading in Paris, Atos’ shares surged by over 20%, but later in the morning, they reversed course. As of 07:49 GMT, the shares were down by 1.6%.
The proposed sale of Atos’s unprofitable legacy IT operations, known as Tech Foundations, to Kretinsky faces opposition from certain minority shareholders and several French politicians.
Opponents of the agreement with Kretinsky, which would grant him control of over half of Atos’ revenue-generating activities, argue that the deal is overly advantageous for the Czech billionaire. They contend that it effectively isolates Tech Foundations from Atos’ entire debt, which amounts to 2.3 billion euros ($2.42 billion).
This two-part transaction also includes a 900 million euro share sale for the remaining segment of Atos, referred to as Eviden. As a result, the Czech tycoon would become the principal shareholder of Eviden, which is regarded as a strategic asset by the French government.
Kretinsky has committed to being a passive shareholder in Eviden. Moreover, sources close to the matter have indicated that he is willing to consider selling part or all of the 7.5% stake he would acquire in Eviden.
Kretinsky’s representatives have emphasized that the transaction would transfer on-balance sheet liabilities worth 1.9 billion euros from Atos in its current state.
On Monday, Atos reaffirmed its intention to sell Tech Foundations to Kretinsky based on the terms announced in August, although it suggested that some of the financial details might be subject to change. The company now anticipates completing the deal in the second quarter of 2024.
Should the agreement with Kretinsky fall through, Atos would need to explore selling additional assets or consider accessing the debt and equity capital markets to ensure the company’s liquidity, as per Atos’ statement. The group, which secured a 2.7 billion-euro short-term debt package to support its transformation, is actively engaged in discussions with its financing banks to secure loan waivers for 1.5 billion euros of the debt set to mature in January 2024.
($1 = 0.9499 euros)
Reported by Mathieu Rosemain and Pierre John Felcenloben; Edited by Christian Schmollinger, Shri Navaratnam, and Louise Heavens