Atos at the heart of controversy

You may have followed the case for some of you, it's time to discuss it in Helionomics. The French IT group Atos has been at the center of controversy for several months. In August 2023, the group announced a plan to split into two entities: a historic outsourcing branch, which would be sold to Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, and a strategic branch specializing in cloud computing, cybersecurity, and supercomputers.

Who is Daniel Kretinsky?

A Czech businessman and billionaire, he studied in France and gained experience at the Slovak fund J&T before becoming a majority shareholder in numerous French media and companies.

He amassed his fortune primarily through EPH, an energy company founded by J&T, of which he became president in 2009 with a 20% stake. He later became the principal shareholder in 2017, holding 94% of the company.

The Czech group EPH, specializing in thermal electricity production, including coal-fired power plants, acquired power plants and mines in several European countries at low prices. Kretinsky invested with the belief that Europe’s energy transition would take time and that Germans would not rush into nuclear power.

Currently the 5th wealthiest person in the Czech Republic, he continues to strategically invest in various industries. However, his proposed acquisition of Atos has raised some concerns…

A Controversial Project

This announcement has sparked strong opposition, particularly from minority shareholders and politicians. Many have criticized the deal as overly favorable to Daniel Kretinsky. The deal could potentially allow the Czech businessman to gain control of a strategically important company for France.

Criticism has focused on several points, including:

The selling price of the historic branch, deemed too low.
Inadequate guarantees to protect the strategic branch.
The possibility for Daniel Kretinsky to gain control of the strategic branch through his participation in its capital increase.

A Change in Leadership

The pressure from critics ultimately led to the resignation of Atos’s president, Bertrand Meunier, in October 2023. He was replaced by Jean-Pierre Mustier, an experienced investment banker.

A New Shareholder

In November 2023, the consulting firm Onepoint, which had previously attempted to acquire Atos in 2022, became the largest shareholder of the group. Onepoint announced its intention to find a solution to remove Daniel Kretinsky from the strategic branch.

The split project is still ongoing, but its realization is uncertain. Daniel Kretinsky’s involvement in the strategic branch is also uncertain, and the conditions for his potential departure from this branch are not yet known.

Significant Consequences

The Atos affair could have significant consequences for the future of the group and for French digital sovereignty. If the split project is successful, Daniel Kretinsky could gain control of a strategically important company for France, raising questions of national security (defense, government agencies, research, nuclear…).

The Atos affair is far from resolved, and negotiations are ongoing. The situation remains uncertain, and the consequences of the affair could be significant.