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French IT services group Atos to replace Meunier as chair

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The chair of problem-plagued French IT services group Atos Bertrand Meunier is set to step down, throwing the restructuring and asset sale plan he had championed into uncertainty, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Another Atos board member, Jean Pierre Mustier, formerly chief executive of Italian bank UniCredit, is being lined up to take Meunier’s place, they said. 

The shake-up could be announced as early as Monday.

Atos declined to comment. Meunier, a former executive at private equity firm CVC, could not be reached for comment. Mustier declined to comment.

It remains unclear what the board changes will mean for the strategy of the heavily indebted group, which has been struggling to turn around its business under Meunier’s tenure. Earlier this month it named a new CEO, its third in two years.

Shares in Atos, which sells technology solutions, cyber security and analytics to businesses, are down more than 50 per cent this year and closed on Friday at €4.88, an all-time low. It also owns quantum computing assets deemed strategic to the French government as they are used in defence programmes.

The shake-up comes as Atos has been in talks to sell its lossmaking legacy operation known as Tech Foundations to Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínský. The deal would allow Křetínský to take a 7.5 per cent stake in Atos’s remaining business, which would be renamed Eviden. 

The complex arrangement, which would also involve Atos carrying out a €900mn capital raise to shore up its balance sheet, has been criticised by several shareholders, including hedge fund CIAM and UDAAC, a group of small shareholders. They have accused Atos of providing inadequate disclosure around the financials of the deal. 

CIAM has filed a lawsuit, while UDAAC has written to ask French markets regulator AMF to take action. 

A group of French senators in August also came out against Křetínský taking a stake in Eviden, given the sensitive nature of its super-calculator technology. It is used to carry out work for the French nuclear weapons programme. 

People close to Křetínský said he was willing to scrap this part of the deal, and that they had written a letter to the French government to indicate their position.

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