Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday that he would "firmly" ensure that the strategic activities of the troubled French IT group Atos remain "under the exclusive control of France".
My only responsibility, and believe me, I will exercise it with all the necessary firmness, is to ensure that Atos' strategic activities remain under French control," Le Maire told the Senate's Economic Affairs Committee, recalling that the group was completely private. "I have the means to do this thanks to the decree on foreign investments in France to ensure that Atos' capital on strategic activities remains under the exclusive control of France," he added. Atos, which is loss-making and heavily indebted, plans to split in 2022 with, on the one hand, the Tech Foundations branch (outsourcing) and, on the other, the strategic branch Eviden (cloud, cybersecurity, supercomputers). Last summer, the group decided to sell Tech Foundations to Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. Eviden, on the other hand, would be listed on the stock exchange, after a capital increase of €900 million.
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Kretinsky's stake under scrutiny
In exchange for the purchase of Tech Foundations, the billionaire had agreed to participate in Eviden's capital increase to the tune of €217 million. He would then become the owner of 7.5% of the capital. This potential entry of the Czech businessman into a strategic branch, which also works for French defence and nuclear deterrence, has provoked an outcry, notably from LR elected officials, the business community and shareholder funds. At the beginning of November, Onepoint, which had failed to buy Atos' strategic activities in 2022, came back in force by becoming the group's largest shareholder, with the aim of pushing Atos' management to modify the agreement with Daniel Kretinsky in order to remove him from Eviden.