The Atos section of the plan and the departure of the CEO frightened investors

PARIS (Reuters) – French IT company Atos scared investors on Tuesday by announcing a plan to split its business and sell assets, which, along with the departure of its CEO Rodolphe Belmer, led to a 25% drop in shares.

The departure of Rodolf Belmer, who took office in January, came after weeks of reports on the company’s restructuring.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Rodolphe Belmer and the board of directors disagreed over the fate of BDS’s cybersecurity unit because it wanted to sell the business and the board wanted to keep it.

Atos considers the activities of Atos, including the production of supercomputers and software used by the army and the Ministry of Finance, to be strategic. Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is on the board.

The departure of Rodolfo Belmer was announced an hour before the long-awaited “Capital Markets Day”, which investors hoped would restore confidence after a series of setbacks that melted the stock market value of Atos by two-thirds over the past year.

Rodolphe Belmer, former head of the satellite company Eutelsat, will leave Atos on September 30. Shares of Atos lost as much as 27% at the beginning of trading in Paris and fell by almost 20% at 07:42 GMT.

Atos plans to split into two public companies and said it has appointed two deputy executives, Nurdin Bihman and Philip Oliva, to head each.

The split “unlocks value” as part of a larger plan valued at 1.6 billion euros in 2022-23, the company said.

Atos will sell non-strategic assets worth about 700 million euros, Rodolf Belmer told reporters on Tuesday.

The group has already sold its 2.5% stake in payment company Worldline as part of its disposal plan, raising 220 million euros.

As part of the division, Atos plans to separate and integrate BDS with its services, including those designed to help customers move to the cloud.

These combined operations, called Evidian, generated revenue of € 4.9 billion in 2021, up 5% from a year earlier and operating profit of 7.8%.

The rest will include declining and loss-making IT infrastructure services, which last year had a turnover of € 5.4 billion.

Atos aims to return to growth and profits for these companies by 2026.

Asked whether he would receive severance pay approved by shareholders in the event of a sudden departure of the CEO within two years, Rodolphe Belmer said he offered to leave with a 9-month salary.

Former head of Canal +, owned by Vivendi, Rodolphe Belmer has promised a fresh start for Atos. His appointment was in response to the loss of investor confidence due to accounting errors and the failure to try to acquire the American group.

The weakness of Atos shares has made the company vulnerable to rumors of mergers and acquisitions. On Monday, the price fell by more than 10% after the publication in the media of a report on the future strategy of the group.

(Written by Miriam Rivet, Mathieu Rozmein, Tassilo Hammel and Nicolas Delam; French version by Augustin Turpen, edited by Kate Entringer)