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:US) 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 as much as 5.5 percent 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.
The shares traded 4 percent lower at 61.74 euros at 9:37 a.m. in the French capital, valuing the company at 5.8 billion euros.
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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