Tech Giant Linked to France’s Cybersecurity Tumbles in Value

The French government said Tuesday that it was moving to protect Atos, a too-big-to-fail French technology giant that manages data and cybersecurity for the nation’s nuclear weapons programs and military as well as for the upcoming Paris Olympics, as the company veered toward financial uncertainty.

Shares of Atos tumbled more than 20 percent after Airbus, the European aerospace giant, said it had called off talks to buy Atos’s cybersecurity assets for up to 1.8 billion euros (about $2 billion) following a review of the company’s finances. Later, Atos said it would postpone its earnings release, scheduled for Wednesday, “in order to evaluate strategic options.”

The French finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, said the government had been closely watching the situation and was working on “a national solution” to protect Atos. “All the interests of France will be preserved,” Mr. Le Maire said, adding that he would use all means at his disposal “to guarantee the protection of strategic activities.”

Atos is not a prominent name among the world’s biggest tech companies, but in France it plays a strategic role in national security and the management of sensitive data in the civil and military sectors. It has grown into a European data and supercomputing powerhouse over the last decade, operating in 69 countries and employing 95,000, with annual revenue of €11 billion.

Much of that growth relied on a debt-financed spending spree of acquisitions, many of them when Atos was led by Thierry Breton, a former finance minister and the current European Union commissioner for internal markets. The company now faces €3.65 billion in loans and bonds that must be repaid or refinanced by the end of 2025.

In 2021, Atos’s share price was hit after reports that it would acquire an American competitor, DXC Technology, for $10 billion. The deal was scrapped a month later amid investor concerns, and Atos was dealt a further blow after auditors found accounting errors at two of its U.S. operations. Atos also failed to keep up with the rise of cloud computing by competitors like Amazon and Microsoft, further undermining investor confidence. The company has gone through three chief executives in as many years.

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