Atos shares jump after it secures financing for turnaround plan

By Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) -France’s Atos <ATOS.PA> said it had secured financing for a turnaround plan and forecast further improvement in sales in the second half, driving up shares in the loss-making IT consulting firm early on Wednesday.

The group has struggled to restore investor confidence over the past six months, marked by two management reshuffles and a downgrade of its debt to junk status by ratings agency S&P.

Atos’ shares were jumping by more than 10% at 0759 GMT, though still down by about 70% since the start of the year.

The group said its “book-to-bill” ratio, which helps investors evaluate the outlook for tech companies, had significantly improved in the second quarter versus the first, as new demand slightly surpassed supply.

First-half sales met expectations, even as the group burned through 555 million euros.

Atos said it expected to burn through up to 450 million euros in the full year, thanks to the improvement of cash flow generation in the second half.

It said now expects its full-year operating margin to be in the lower end of the 3% to 5% range it previously forecast.

Like its peers, Atos faces high levels of employee turnover and wage inflation, which weigh on its margins. It is also dealing with the consequences of its slower move to cloud computing-related services compared to some rivals.

The first six months of the year were particularly turbulent for the group, which was formerly headed by European Union industry chief Thierry Breton.

In June it saw the sudden departure of Rodolphe Belmer following a rift with the board over strategy, just a few months after his nomination as CEO.

Belmer said he would leave the group on the day Atos presented its plan to split the company in two groups, with the aim to spin off and combine its most lucrative assets, including its cybersecurity division BDS.

Atos said it had secured the 1.5 billion euros in financing needed for the plan, which includes investments and restructuring costs for both separate entities, with final documentation to be signed with banks “in the next few days”.

The group had initially said the sale of 700 million euros worth of assets would finance that plan. It still has to find buyers for 480 million euros worth of assets.

($1 = 0.9855 euros)

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; editing by Stephen Coates and Jason Neely)