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Atos Reviews Options for Worldline Electronic-Payments Unit

Atos, a rival of computer-services giant International Business Machines Corp., confirmed sales will grow this year and profitability will improve as it seeks acquisitions to strengthen its payments unit.

Net income rose 14 percent to 116 million euros ($153 million) in the first half as sales fell 0.6 percent from a year earlier to 4.3 billion euros, the Bezons, France-based company said yesterday in a statement.

Atos confirmed its yearly group forecast for “slight revenue growth” and an operating margin around 7.5 percent of sales, up from 6.6 percent in 2012 and 6.5 percent in the first half of this year. Shares fell 2.7 percent to 56.43 euros at 11:03 a.m. in Paris.

Atos -- headed by Thierry Breton, a former finance minister who became chief executive officer in November 2008 -- has completed carving out its electronic payment activities into a unit dubbed Worldline. The move is geared at giving Atos more financial flexibility to expand the payments business, including through acquisitions.

“Worldline is now ready to seize opportunities in an industry that is poised to consolidate,” Atos’s Senior Executive Vice President Gilles Grapinet said yesterday during a conference call.

A share of Worldline could be sold to one or more partners should an “industrial opportunity” present itself to Worldline, he said. An initial public offering is also an option, he said.

Grapinet declined to say whether Atos is in talks on acquisitions or Worldline’s financing. The company has been approached by bankers about the unit’s options, the executive had said in an interview in April.

Atos shares have risen about 10 percent this year through yesterday.

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