French IT consulting and technology giant Atos has entered talks with Airbus for the sale of its Big Data & Security division. The sale could deliver Atos up to €1.8 billion in proceeds.
In a statement released this morning, the CEO of Atos, Yves Bernaert, said that the company has received two non-binding offers for its Big Data & Security division. In a separate statement, Airbus confirmed it has entered into preliminary talks with Atos, however, the second interested party has so far not been disclosed.
Bernaert confirmed that Atos has now kicked off a due diligence phase with Airbus, which is interested in buying the entire Big Data & Security division at an estimated enterprise value of between €1.5 billion and €1.8 billion.
One of Atos’ top performing units, the Big Data & Security division currently sits within Eviden, which was formed last year when Atos split into two separate businesses: Eviden (revenue: €5.3 billion) and Tech Foundations (revenue: €6.0 billion).
The Big Data & Security division has been in the spotlight for months. In September 2022, the unit received an offer from technology consultancy Onepoint and British private equity fund ICG, but the board of Atos unanimously rejected the offer. According to reporting from the Financial Times, Atos will this time round receive a lower offer, with market conditions turning and buyers well-aware of the restructuring process Atos is undergoing.
Launched last year, Atos is busy with a “major asset disposal program”, one of multiple measures the French group has launched so it can meet the repayments of its maturing debts. Between 2024 and 2029, the company will face a series of maturing debts totaling €4.8 billion ($5.2 billion).
Selling parts of the business is a major part of the financial restructuring plan, alongside getting new bank financing, attempts to optimize its working capital, and the public listing of both Eviden and Tech Foundations.
The plan is not running smoothly admitted Bernaert in yesterday’s update, stating that the company is “currently reassessing whether the moves it is making will be sufficient to cover maturing debts.”
If the deal with Airbus goes ahead, it would fulfil the company’s long publicized aspiration to grow its cybersecurity operations.
“In line with its ambition to grow as a European aerospace, defense, and cybersecurity leader, Airbus has been exploring potential strategic opportunities with Atos,” an Airbus spokesperson said. “Discussions are at an early stage and remain subject to due diligence. There can be no certainty that they will result in any agreement or transaction.”
“The acquisition of the Big Data & Security division could significantly accelerate the digital transformation of Airbus, enhance the Company’s defense and security portfolio with strong capabilities in cyber, advanced computing, and artificial intelligence, and support Airbus’ decarbonization roadmap.”
Last year, Airbus expressed an interest in purchasing 30% of Eviden, but that deal was blown off in the due diligence phase after opposition from a number of large Atos shareholders.
While the name of the second buyer is still shrouded in secrecy (previously mentioned Thales has confirmed it has no interest), Atos did confirm that the potential buyer has expressed interest in “part of” the Big Data & Security division.
Meanwhile, Atos is still in discussion with EPEI, an investment vehicle owned by Czech billionaire energy magnate Daniel Kretinsky, over the sale of its Tech Foundations business. The sale, valued at an enterprise value of €2 billion, was planned to be closed in the final quarter of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024, but Atos said this morning that negotiations were talking longer than planned.
Discussions are being held on “the price to be paid, the structure of the transaction and the transfer of a very large proportion of Tech Foundations liabilities,” Atos said in a statement.
At the same time, EPEI is seeking to invest significantly in Eviden, as part of a wider share issue worth €900 million. This transaction however is likely to be blown off, with Atos announcing that it is “examining with EPEI the legal and financial conditions under which EPEI could be released, in whole or in part, from its commitment to participate in the capital increase.”