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Atos Reveals Airbus’ Non-Binding Offer of Up to $2 Billion for Cybersecurity Division

Airbus, the prominent aerospace manufacturer, has submitted a non-binding offer ranging from 1.5 to 1.8 billion euros ($1.6-$2.0 billion) to acquire Atos’s coveted cybersecurity unit BDS, as announced by the French IT group on Wednesday.

The move is part of Atos’s strategic initiative to strengthen its financial position, with the potential deal being a significant step under the leadership of Jean-Pierre Mustier, who assumed the role of Atos Chair in October.

The proposed acquisition is a crucial component of Atos’s broader plan to revitalize the company’s fortunes, following a series of setbacks and governance crises. Simultaneously, Atos disclosed that negotiations for the sale of its Tech Foundations arm, which has been incurring losses, were progressing more slowly than anticipated.

The company also indicated the possibility of employing “legal protection mechanisms” in discussions with creditors if talks with banks did not yield the desired progress.

At the time of the announcement, Atos’ shares experienced a 4.8% decline at 1230 GMT, having briefly surged over 10% in early trading. Airbus expressed its intention to engage in due diligence talks with Atos, highlighting the potential to accelerate Airbus’ digital transformation and bolster its defense and security portfolio through the acquisition of BDS, renowned for its capabilities in cyber, advanced computing, and artificial intelligence.

Atos revealed that a third party, yet to be identified, had also shown non-binding interest in acquiring a portion of BDS. The Financial Times, citing an anonymous source, suggested that French electronics manufacturer Thales had been considering options in recent weeks.

Thales, however, stated via email that it had “no intention of diversifying into markets other than those it already serves.”

The announcement comes against the backdrop of Atos grappling with various challenges, including the poorly received takeover plan for U.S. rival DXC in 2021, resolved accounting issues at U.S. entities, and leadership turnover.

Discussions with Airbus and the potential sale of BDS are poised to be pivotal for Atos as it strives to reshape its business trajectory.

In addition, Atos acknowledged ongoing talks with banks regarding its financing and refinancing and stated that it would assess the sufficiency of its measures in covering financing maturities and long-term cash requirements over the first quarter.

The company is planning two six-month extensions to a 1.5 billion euro loan, with the first extension effective from Jan. 29.

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