80 Quai Voltaire
Telephone: (+33 1) 73 26 00 00
Web site: http://www.atos.net
Sales: €12.7 billion ($14.9 billion) (2017)
Stock Exchanges: Euronext
Ticker Symbol: ATO
NAICS: 541512 Computer Systems Design Services; 541690 Other Scientific and Technical Consulting Services
Atos SE provides information technology (IT) solutions and systems to clients in 73 countries. Its primary businesses include managed services, such as support services for its clients' networks and security systems, and systems integration, which includes design-and-build work-to-client specifications. The company also offers payment and other transaction services through its Worldline division. About 65 percent of the company's sales come from the European market.
Although Atos SE's previous incarnation, Atos Origin, was formed in 2000 through the merger of France's Atos and the Netherlands' Origin, its own origins reached back to the earliest days of the IT market. A result of a long series of mergers and acquisitions, Atos Origin emerged as a major European IT company, before joining the ranks of the global leaders around 2005.
The first major merger leading toward Atos Origin occurred in 1972, when the French management systems pioneer Cegos Informatique, founded in 1962 as part of the Cegos consultancy, merged with Sliga, the subsidiary responsible for the growing data processing operations of Crédit Lyonnais, formed in 1970. The merged company was then named Sligos, with Crédit Lyonnais retaining majority control.
Sligos grew into one of France's leading IT companies during the 1970s. A major factor in the company's success was its participation in the development of the country's banking card system. In 1973 Sligos was chosen by the country's bank to develop the data processing backbone for the proposed Carte Bleue, which allowed credit card–like purchases throughout the country. By 1975 Sligos's system was processing some 2.5 million transactions per year, a number that was to increase to more than 30 million per year by 1980. The development of the microchip permitted Sligos, which also began fabricating cards, to roll out electronic “smart” card processing systems during the 1980s. By the end of that decade, the Carte Bleue system had been extended nationwide, and the company's card production neared 50 million cards.
By then, the French IT industry was in the midst of a long consolidation effort, which saw the emergence of a small number of larger groups that were capable of competing on a European, and even global, scale. Among these groups was Axime, which proposed to merge with Sligos in 1996.
Axime stemmed from the creation of Sodinforg in 1981 by four associates at the Centre Technique Régionale Carte Bleue in Nancy. That company grew quickly through the 1980s, making a number of acquisitions, including Perbanq in 1984, Sedap in 1986, Segime Industrie in 1987, and Stratégie Informatique in 1989. By the end of the 1980s Sodinforg had become France's third-largest smart card systems developer.
In 1991 Sodinforg agreed to merge with the number four in the French market, Segin, and another important IT services group, SITB. The merged company, led by Bernard Bourigeaud, then underwent a restructuring to focus on three core operations: electronic transaction processing, software engineering, and systems integration. As part of its restructuring, Axime sold a number of businesses, including its check personalization and point-of-sale terminal businesses, representing some 50 percent of its total revenues.
Instead, Axime began reinforcing its core businesses, while extending its operations to include online multimedia and outsourcing services. As part of that effort, the company acquired stakes in a number of businesses and also began expanding beyond France, notably with the establishment of Segin Italie in 1991.
In 1993 the merged company formally adopted the name Axime, replacing Segin's listing on the Paris Bourse's secondary market. That same year it acquired CTL and its subsidiary Finaxine. Axime also acquired the network of offices operated by Comelog in the south of France. In 1995 Axime moved its listing to the Paris Bourse's monthly settlement market. Soon after, Paribas, which had held 88 percent of its stock in Axime, began selling its holding, reducing its shares to 26 percent by the following year.
Axime continued making acquisitions, such as Iris in 1995. The company also acquired stakes in a number of other businesses, such as 30 percent of Carte Jeunes, while boosting its stakes in others, such as ODS (raised to nearly 73 percent) and Altek (to 100 percent). Axime also gained a boost to its outsourcing operation with the acquisition of the outsourcing division of ADP-GSI, which enabled Axime to gain the contract for operating the Paris Bourse's quotation and clearing systems. The company then set up a joint venture, later renamed as Euronext, with the Société des Bourses Françaises to develop these systems.
Bourigeaud now sought to raise Axime's profile still further. In 1996 he led Axime into merger talks with Sligos. That merger was completed by mid-1997, and by September 1997 the new, larger company had settled on a new name: Atos.
Following the merger, Atos launched a reorganization effort, including the creation of four strategic divisions: Services, Multimedia, Outsourcing, and Systems Integration. The company also sold a number of noncore holdings at that time, including a computer hardware retailing operation, a direct marketing company, and its network interconnection software development business. Meanwhile, Atos made a number of strategic investments, buying up Sesam in Italy and buying out its minority partners in a number of subsidiaries.
Atos continued seeking acquisition opportunities into the new century. In 2000, for example, it acquired Odyssée, which focused on providing consulting services for the financial and banking sectors. Atos also made strong gains in its outsourcing and e-business operations, picking up a number of important clients, such as Vivendi and Peugeot. By the beginning of the 21st century, Atos was one of Europe's e-business systems providers.
Atos Origin, still guided by Bourigeaud, now joined a trend in the IT services industry toward the convergence of traditional systems integration and management with consulting services. In 2002 the company acquired KPMG Consulting's British and Dutch operations, which began operating as ATOS KPMG. The acquisition, which cost the company €657 million ($620 million), helped raise Atos Origin's profile, boosting it to the number-10 position among IT services providers in Europe. Atos Origin also scored an important outsourcing contract that same year, agreeing with the Dutch-based KPN to take over nearly all of its IT operations. This contract, worth more than €1 billion, helped Atos Origin consolidate its position as the number-two native European IT services company.
By the end of 2003 Atos Origin was ready to move into the global big leagues. In September 2003 the company announced that it had reached an agreement to acquire SchlumbergerSema, a leading provider of IT services to the oil industry, as well as the holder of contracts to supply the IT systems for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games. The addition of SchlumbergerSema's operations catapulted Atos Origin's revenues past €5 billion and allowed Atos Origin to penetrate a new and potentially vast market: China. Atos Origin inherited SchlumbergerSema's contract to provide IT support services for six of the 10 Chinese credit card–issuing banks.
During the fall of 2004 the company acquired the 900-employee IT services arm of KarstadtQuelle AG, a major German retail chain that had decided to outsource its IT operations by simply selling its own department intact to another company. Meanwhile, Atos Origin was consolidating most of its payment, card processing, and related businesses into one new subsidiary dubbed Atos Worldline. Also, in the name of streamlining and efficiency, the company began shedding some of its regional operations by selling most of its Australian business in 2004, its Scandinavian business in 2005, and its Middle Eastern business in 2006.
From late 2007 through the end of 2008 there was turbulence in the Atos Origin boardroom as the company cycled through three CEOs in just over one year, while two of its largest investors wrangled for control of the company. By that point Atos Origin was bringing in €5.5 billion a year, but its profit margins remained frustratingly low compared with its competitors, and various shareholder and management factions had differing visions of how to remedy the situation. The company finally seemed to settle into a groove with the arrival in November 2008 of new CEO Thierry Breton, formerly the French minister of the economy.
Over the next few years Atos continued expanding its footprint in new market sectors and territories through acquisitions, although not every buyout bid was successful. For example, in 2017 the company bid €4.3 billion for the French-Dutch security-focused chipmaker Gemalto NV, but was outbid by the Thales conglomerate. In early 2018 Atos had to endure embarrassing headlines after the cloud computing systems it had helped develop and operate for the Winter Olympics in South Korea were hacked, causing minor disruptions for the games' ticketing systems. Better news arrived later in the year, when Siemens agreed to expand and accelerate its development and investment partnership with Atos, awarding Atos new outsourcing contracts worth approximately €200 million.
M. L. Cohen
Updated, Chris Herzog
Atos Consulting France; Atos Origin Formation S.A.; Atos Origin Integration SAS; Atos Origin Management France SAS; Bull SA; Worldline SA; Atos IT Solutions and Services, Inc. (USA); Atos Argentina SA; Atos Information Technology GmbH (Germany); Atos IT Services Private Ltd (India); Atos IT Services UK Limited; Atos IT Servicios do Brazil LTDA; Atos Saudi Company; Unify Software & Solutions GmbH & Co. KG (Germany); Atos Covics Business Solutions Co., Ltd. (China); Atos Belgium SA; Atos Italia S.p.A.; Atos IT Solutions and Services GmbH (Germany); Atos Origin Information Technology (China) Co. Ltd.; Cetisa, S.A (Spain); Sema GMBH (Spain); SM2 Baleares SA (Spain); Atos Singapore; Atos Taiwan Ltd.; Atos Qatar LLC; Atos Origin SAE (Spain).
Big Data and Cybersecurity; Business and Platform Solutions; Infrastructure and Data Management; Worldline.
Accenture plc; Capgemini; Ordina IT Solutions; Steria SA; Telefónica S.A.
“A Desperate Embrace.” Economist, November 13, 2004.
Altmeyer, Cyril. “Thales Agrees 4.8 Billion Euro Gemalto Takeover, Atos Throws in Towel.” Reuters, December 17, 2017.
Harvey, Fiona. “Slivers of Silver Linings on a Cloudy Horizon.” Financial Times, May 7, 2003.
———. “Swimming in Murky Waters.” Financial Times, March 19, 2003.
Minder, Raphael. “IT Group Learns from Others' Mistakes.” Financial Times, June 6, 2002.
Patnaik, Subrat, and Liana B. Baker. “Xerox to Sell IT Outsourcing Arm to France's Atos for $1.05 Billion.” Reuters, December 18, 2014.
Schenker, Jennifer L. “Looking to Vault into the Top Tier.” International Herald Tribune, July 28, 2004.
“Siemens Sells IT Unit to Atos Origin for 850 Mln Eur.” Reuters, December 14, 2010.
Walton, Christopher. “Atos Acquisition to Send European Status Soaring.” MicroScope, September 29, 2003.