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Atos Sale Talks With Kretinsky Stall as IT Firm Faces Debt Wall

(Bloomberg) -- Discussions between Atos SE and Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky’s EP Equity Investments around the sale of the struggling French company’s legacy IT services business have hit a roadblock, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Atos chairman Jean-Pierre Mustier was due to meet the Czech billionaire the second week of January, but has been postponing the meeting since then, the people said, asking not to be named discussing private information.

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Atos began exclusive negotiations with EPEI for the sale of its Tech Foundations unit, which sells outsourced information technology services to big companies, mid last year. The deal outlined gave the unit an enterprise value of €2 billion ($2.1 billion), with Atos getting €100 million in cash and transferring €1.9 billion of debt to EPEI.

Since then, Atos has faced a series of setbacks and governance changes. These have put a strain on the discussions at a time when the company is under pressure to negotiate a restructuring with its creditors ahead of a wall of debt maturities next year.

Last month, Atos appointed its fifth chief executive officer in two-and-a-half years and the company also faces lawsuits from minority shareholders. One lawsuit accuses the company’s former chairman of misleading and inadequate disclosures and the other targets management for a lack of transparency around the EPEI deal. The company has also been in discussions with banks to refinance debt due next year.

Read More: Atos Cancels €720 Million Rights Sale; Stock Hits Record Low

Following changes to the board in October, Atos demanded Kretinsky pony up more cash as talks dragged on. Atos wanted at least €500 million more than what was discussed in the original terms, Bloomberg reported last month. Kretinsky’s group is willing to improve the terms, but not to that extent, the people said.

Spokespeople for Atos and EPEI declined to comment.

Debt Wall

Under the original deal, Atos’s remaining cloud, supercomputer and cybersecurity business, called Eviden, planned a €900 million capital increase, out of which €180 million was reserved for EPEI. At the time, Atos said the transaction would represent a “major derisking” for the group.

On Monday, Atos announced that it had dropped plans for the €720 million capital increase as the conditions for the rights offering were “no longer applicable.” Shares plunged as much as 30% to a record low.

Atos has to tackle €2.4 billion of bank debt due next year, €500 million of convertible bonds due in November and €750 million of bonds due in May next year. On Monday, the company said it had requested a court-appointed mediator, known as a “mandataire ad hoc,” to help with the refinancing discussions with banks.

Read more: France Is Determined to Preserve Atos, Finance Minister Says

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