Atos takeover of Bull to create Europe’s top cloud firm

Atos is to buy Bull in an all-French IT sector deal worth 620 million euros ($845m) to create the top Europe-based cloud computing company and a major player in cybersecurity.

The companies said a combined Atos and Bull, currently numbers 5 and 10 respectively in cloud computing in Western Europe, would leap to the fast-growing industry’s number two spot by revenue behind US-based Amazon and ahead of Microsoft.

A presentation on the Atos website after the pair announced the deal yesterday showed the cloud services market growing at a compound annual rate of between 25 and 50 per cent a year.

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At 4.90 euros a share, the agreed offer announced by both companies yesterday represents a 30 per cent premium to the three-month weighted average share price of Bull and the combination is expected to deliver some 80 million euros annually in cost savings within two years, equivalent to almost a third of Atos’ net profit last year.

Analysts at Kepler Cheuvreux said the relatively low multiple for Bull, giving it an enterprise value of nine times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, reflected its status as a “serial disappointer”, while Atos’ record on acquisitions was a good one and so “we see some rationale in the transaction”.

Atos, more than nine times larger than Bull by market value based on its offer price, said the deal would enhance its offerings in manufacturing, healthcare, and the public sector, and would reinforce its footprint, “mainly in France, but also in geographies such as Iberia, Poland, Africa and Brazil”.

“Bull will bring critical and complementary capabilities in big data which, combined with Atos solutions, will create a unique offering in this high-growth segment,” it said.

Bull’s main shareholders, Crescendo Industries and Pothar Investments, own some 24.2 per cent of the company and have already committed to tender their shares, the companies said.

Atos is also in a battle to acquire French IT services group Steria. Steria has accepted a bid from rival Sopra and rejected Atos’ 22 euro per share prop- osal.

A spokesman for Atos said the Bull deal did not change its offer for Steria, which remains on the table until Sopra’s annual meeting today.