Atos to Split Off Payments Unit as It Considers Stake Sale

Atos, a French computer-services company that competes with International Business Machines Corp., will split off its electronic payments unit by mid-year and consider selling a minority stake in the business.

The payments and transactions unit’s sales rose 5 percent to 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion) last year, making up 12 percent of Bezons, France-based Atos’s total revenue, according to a statement. Once it’s separated, Atos may sell a minority stake in the unit or sell shares in an initial public offering, Senior Executive Vice President Gilles Grapinet said today on a conference call with reporters.

“The point of the carve-out is to gain financial and strategic flexibility,” Grapinet said. Atos, which had net cash of 232 million euros at the end of the year, is conducting an “intense search for potential acquisition opportunities,” Grapinet said.

Sales at Atos will increase “slightly” this year and adjusted non-diluted earnings per share will probably rise 25 percent, Atos forecast today.

Net income rose 23 percent to 224 million euros in 2012 and revenue reached 8.8 billion euros. Revenue advanced 0.8 percent excluding acquisitions. Analysts had predicted full-year profit of 259.6 million euros and sales of 8.85 billion euros, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

IT Market

The technology services market grew 3.3 percent in 2012 to $650 billion and is expected to grow 3.9 percent this year, according to Bloomberg Industries analyst Anurag Rana. There are concerns about weakness in the European market given the economic outlook, Rana said.

Atos, headed by Thierry Breton, a former finance minister who has been chief executive officer since November 2008, makes about half of its revenue from Germany, the U.K. and France. Its competitors at home include Cap Gemini SA.

Shares of Atos fell 1.5 percent to 56.38 euros. They have gained 30 percent during the past 12 months and are trading near their highest level in seven years.

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