The government was not surprised by the Airbus offensive in Atos

The shareholders of the IT group are calling for a call for tenders open to all candidates for the acquisition of cybersecurity activities.

Within the government, Airbus’ candidacy for Atos’ future subsidiary, Evidian, is meeting with little enthusiasm. Cautious voices criticized the influence and power of the Germans in the group. And especially in its subsidiary dedicated to defense activities “Airbus Defense and Space” whose headquarters is in Bavaria.

“The government considers it a German company,” said a source familiar with the matter.

A handicap, as Airbus proposes to bring it closer to Evidian which, from next summer, will combine the cybersecurity, digital and supercomputer businesses of Atos. The government remains “cooperative” with the so-called branch of “national sovereignty” as it cooperates with NATO and the French military.

“Airbus is not valued much in the Ministry of Armed Forces because of the failure of the plane of the future” added another source involved in the future of Atos. The aircraft manufacturer is considered the defender of German interests in its venture with Dassault for this European project. The Ministry of the Economy is more nuanced but distance itself.

“Airbus is a European group in which we are shareholders (11%), in which we work well and which is a major economic player for our country” we explained to Bercy.

Airbus is more German than French

A stark contrast to support for rival Thales where the state has 26%. The group led by Patrice Caine is also a candidate for the acquisition of Atos’ cybersecurity activities. But its president Bertrand Meunier rejected an alliance with Thales. In any case, “the government has never indicated its will to us” we assure Atos.

“It is true that we are considered European, while Thales is considered uniquely French, deciphers a senior Airbus executive. Our defense activities have a German perspective.”

It is for this reason that Airbus has taken the lead. The aircraft manufacturer has been interested in Atos for more than a year, as BFM Business revealed in March. He proposes to take 29.9% of the capital of Evidian, according to Les Echos, to meet the requirements of Atos, while Thales is only interested in cybersecurity businesses.

Sycomore’s shareholder is calling for tenders

The battle between the two French groups is pleasing Atos shareholders. They intend to seize the opportunity to raise the stakes while the stock market has fallen 75% in a year. But they fear Atos is favoring Airbus to escape Thales’s grasp. “If the management wants to open the capital of Evidian, it should launch a call for tenders for all candidates, explained Cyril Charlot, manager of Sycomore, one of the most active minority shareholders. There is no question that do over-the-counter transactions”. Hervé Lecesne wants to remain positive but says nothing else. He is part of a small group of investors that make up about 5% of Atos’ capital. “It is still a bit early and everyone is waiting for the publication of the 2022 annual results, he admitted. But negotiations are progressing”.

At Atos, we promise that the “process is open to everyone with projects to propose, but Airbus is part of our project to create Evidian”. The reality seems to be very different. “We are the only ones to talk about” the assurance of a close friend of Airbus. According to our information, the aeronautical group has even commissioned Ernst & Young and Alvarez & Marsal to begin auditing Atos’ accounts.

A big advantage when, according to some sources, no discussion is taking place with either Thales or One Point. The IT “little thumb” proposed a takeover offer of 4.2 billion euros for the digital, cyber and “big data” activities of Atos in November. Worse, according to our information, the president of Atos rejected a new strategy from the boss of One Point, David Layani, before the holiday. On the other hand, in October, he received the CEO of Thales, Patrice Caine, to tell him that he would not sign a transaction before the creation of Evidian next June… For now, Airbus is alone in the race that lasted until the following summer.

Matthew Pechberty Journalist BFM Business

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