Atos Rejects Candover Bid for Worldline

PARIS (Reuters) – French IT services provider Atos Origin SA (ATOS.PA: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said it had received an offer from private equity firm Candover (CDI.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) for its Atos Worldline unit several weeks ago but rejected it.

Both the group’s supervisory board and strategy committee rejected the proposal as it was “of no strategic interest or financial interest,” a company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

The spokeswoman was reacting to a report by French weekly Challenges that Candover made a 1.6 billion euro ($2.35 billion) “conditional offer” for the electronic payment systems unit.

The spokeswoman would not confirm the offer amount cited by Challenges nor whether two other private equity funds, Clayton and KKR, were also looking at Atos Worldline.

A spokesman for Candover had declined to comment on the report.

Atos Origin, which lost a landmark battle in June with activist hedge funds Pardus and Centaurus, has promised its shareholders to undertake a strategy review to accelerate its recovery. Pardus and Centaurus together own 21.01 percent of its capital.

In return the funds promised not to break up the company, which has a market capitalisation of 2.1 billion euros and had 2007 revenues of 5.8 billion euros.

Atos Origin shares closed up 2.11 percent at 30.94 euros

“The valuation levels look significant, but compared to recent deals they are not surprising, especially as Atos Worldline has much higher margins than most competitors,” one trader said.

Atos Wordline, which generates annual revenue of 654 million euros, specialises in end-to-end payment services and card processing. It is viewed by analysts as one of the group’s jewels.

Separately, private equity firm PAI Partners bought more shares in Atos, raising its stake in the company to 22.61 percent.

PAI, which previously held 18 percent of Atos, reiterated it was acting alone, did not want control of the company, and could buy more Atos Origin shares, depending on market conditions.

It also said it would ask for a third seat on Atos Origin’s supervisory board “once this will be possible”.

In July Atos appointed two representatives of PAI to its supervisory board.

By Dominique Vidalon
(Additional reporting by Blaise Robinson) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Greg Mahlich/Richard Hubbard)