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Shares in French IT giant Atos rose on Monday after newspaper Les Echos reported that Airbus had initiated exploratory talks to acquire a minority stake in the company’s cybersecurity unit.

The newspaper cited anonymous sources. In an email statement, Airbus said it would not comment on speculation, adding that it frequently holds private talks with “partners, customers, and suppliers across the industry”.

Atos recently announced it had “initiated exploratory discussions with potential future minority shareholders in the scope of activities grouped under the name of Evidian”.

Evidian is the name of Atos’s planned spin-off company, expected to consist of its current cybersecurity division, among other units. Atos shares, which lost more than 50 percent of their value in 2022, rose about 7 percent in early Paris trade after Les Echos reported on the rumours.

Attempt to recover

Atos embarked on an introspective journey in June 2022, telling investors that it had a fragmented portfolio, a “significant number of red contracts”, “high use of sub-contractors”, “low productivity” and an “inadequate skill-set of commercial resources”.

The company announced it planned to split into two publicly listed companies, using spin-offs of its cybersecurity operations and other units to create a new entity named Evidian.

The second spin-off company would consist of its dwindling IT infrastructure management business. Atos said the discussions are “not sufficiently advanced to allow any further comment” at this time.

Atos remains influential

The company reported a return to revenue growth in the Americas and Northern Europe in its third-quarter results on October 26. An eight-year deal to become UEFA’s football team partner and optimize its IT operations was announced on December 8, as well as a major partnership with AWS and the appointment of five new directors, four of whom are independent and four of whom are women.

In early December 2022, the French multinational got a new CEO. Nourdine Bihmane is Atos’s fourth chief executive since 2019 and the third in twelve months. The Moroccan-born Madrid resident and quietly spoken software engineer has been recruited to head the recovery of what remains a powerful firm with a work backlog worth more than €21 billion.

Tip: Atos refuses €4.2 billion acquisition bid