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June 28, 2024

Atos crisis escalates, raising concerns for UK public services’ IT systems

Consortium led by Atos’ biggest shareholder has withdrawn the restructuring plan announced earlier this month, plunging the company's future back into uncertainty.

By Livia Giannotti

Questions are increasingly being raised over Atos’ ability to keep providing for critical UK public services after restructuring deal was called off.

The Atos logo.
Atos has almost a billion pounds worth of UK government contracts. (Photo by Lukassek / Shutterstock)

On Wednesday, Atos announced that the bid to save the company had collapsed, bringing the company once again into financial and executive turmoil. 

“The Onepoint, Butler Industries and Econocom consortium found that the conditions were not ripe to reach an agreement paving the way for a lasting solution to the financial restructuring and implementation of the One Atos project,” Onepoint said in a statement.

The tech and IT giant provides services at the UK Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Justice and is notably involved with managing IT systems for NHS health records, PIP assessments, HRMC tax refunds and student loan records. Atos has almost a billion pounds worth of government contracts.

The financial restructuring plan was being led by Onepoint, a consulting firm founded by Atos’ largest shareholder David Layani. The plan was to implement “a definite financial restructuring commitment” by July, the company said when the deal was announced less than three weeks ago. The original pitch included a proposal to convert  €2.9 billion of existing debt into equity, and inject €250 million of new money equity.

Following the withdrawal of the deal, David Layani and fellow board member Helen Lee-Bouygues announced their immediate resignation from Atos’ Board of Directors.

Atos resumes talks with Czech billionaire over potential deal

Daniel Kretínsky, a Czech billionaire who owns and heads the biggest energy group in Central Europe (EPH), has made several deal proposals to invest in Atos over the past months, including a rival proposition to the Onepoint-led consortium bid earlier this month. 

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However, now that the Onepoint deal has collapsed, Atos said on Wednesday that Kretinsky is willing to restart talks. His latest proposal included a short-term cash infusion of €600m, a reduction of the group’s debt by €4bn and €1.3bn in long-term financing, in exchange for “almost total control of Atos,” Tech Monitor previously reported.

The ongoing crisis caused by enormous debts and divisive internal disputes has prompted the British government to review new potential IT providers to limit “severe implications” to essential services, the i newspaper reported earlier this month. The media revealed that the government is worried about essential services including NHS appointments and benefits payments being potentially impacted by Atos’ crisis.

The French IT giant has already been battling against debts for several years and has dealt with significant executive turmoil, having had four CEOs over two years. 

Read more: The fall of Atos: What went wrong? And what happens next?

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