Atos (ATO) is studying potential acquisitions to help make the French computer-services supplier’s Worldline unit Europe’s biggest payments company.
“We make a point of constantly looking at everything that comes on the market that could be a good fit for Worldline,” Gilles Grapinet, Atos senior executive vice president, said in an interview in Barcelona. “We don’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we missed a transaction. Bankers know they can come and knock on our door.”
Atos, whose competitors include France’s Cap Gemini SA (CAP) and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) of the U.S., is looking at acquisition targets to help Worldline gain scale, Grapinet said. The Paris-based company is also weighing acquisitions to take the division into new countries, especially in central and Eastern Europe, or for market share in fast-growing markets such as online payments, he said.
“There is room in Europe to create a big leader in payments like in the U.S.,” Grapinet said yesterday in a presentation at a conference organized by Morgan Stanley. “Payment assets are generally trading at much higher ratios than Atos, so we carved out Worldline to give ourselves a currency.”
Atos fell 4.1 percent to 61.70 euros in Paris today. Shareholder PAI Partners SAS is selling as many as 8.9 million shares, according to a statement from Morgan Stanley, which is arranging the transaction. The stake has a market value of about 572 million euros ($768 million) based on yesterday’s close. The private-equity firm became Atos’s largest stakeholder in 2008.
Atos said in July it had finished separating its electronic-payment business into Worldline and would consider whether to make acquisitions, sell a share of the division to investors or seek a separate listing on the stock market.
Other operators in the fragmented market for electronic payments range from EBay Inc.’s online money-transfer and payments service PayPal to companies such as Gemalto NV, which sell software to make transactions more secure.
Atos is headed by Thierry Breton, a former finance minister who became chief executive officer in November 2008.
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