Billionaire Kretinsky in talks to buy Atos unit in $2.2 billion deal

By Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) -Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky is in exclusive talks to buy Atos’ loss-making legacy operations in a 2 billion-euro ($2.20 billion) deal that will significantly reduce the scope and liabilities of the struggling French IT consulting firm.

The talks, announced with Kretinsky’s EP Equity Investment (EPEI) vehicle, come on top of a 900 million-euro share-sale plan, aimed at further shoring up Atos’ balance sheet, the company said.

The expected sale would bring in 100 million euros in cash and cut 1.9 billion euros worth of liabilities from the tech company’s balance sheet, Atos said. It gives an enterprise value of 2 billion euros to the sold division, named Tech Foundations.

Tech Foundations, whose activities generated 4.5 billion euros of revenue last year, offers infrastructure management services.

Atos’ shares were up 6.8% in early Paris trading.

Atos had planned to split the company into two, spinning off its most-coveted assets, such as cybersecurity unit BDS and supercomputers, which are deemed strategic by the French state, into a new unit named Eviden.

The costly split had been an effort to regain investors’ confidence after several severe setbacks and governance instability.

Following the sale of the tech unit, Atos will still rename as Eviden.

Deep-pocketed Kretinsky, who made his fortune in the energy sector, is on buying spree in France, having set his eyes on a variety of assets, spanning French retailer Casino to Vivendi’s publishing group Editis.

Atos also announced the departure of Chief Financial Officer Nathalie Senechault, who had held the top spot for one year. Incoming CFO Paul Saleh, just a few days on the job, was on the call with analysts on Tuesday morning.

($1 = 0.9095 euros)

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Sharon Singleton)

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