Security News

Airbus Joins Thales in Probing Atos Cybersecurity Purchase: Report

Michael Novinson

Airbus has been looking into a potential acquisition of Atos over the last few weeks driven by its interest in the field of cybersecurity. Atos, however, told CRN its $1.41 billion cybersecurity business isn’t for sale.


Atos has attracted a second suitor, with Airbus joining Thales in attempting to buy the beleaguered IT services giant’s $1.41 billion cybersecurity business.

The Leiden, Netherlands-based aircraft manufacturer has been looking into a potential acquisition of Atos over the last few weeks driven by its interest in the field of cybersecurity, France’s BFM TV reported Thursday, according to Reuters. At this stage, however, no outright takeover of Atos, No. 24 on the 2021 CRN Solution Provider 500, is in the cards, according to BFM.

“[Airbus CEO] Guillaume Faury believes that this topic [Atos] is too complicated given Airbus’s interests,” a source told BFM, according to Reuters. Like Thales, Airbus opted against buying Atos as a whole since it has no interest in the company’s other activities, BFM said. Atos said its big data and cybersecurity (BDS) division isn’t for sale, while Airbus didn’t immediately respond to a CRN request for comment.

[Related: Thales Eyes Purchase Of Atos Cybersecurity Business: Reports]

Airbus today has three divisions: a $40.11 billion commercial aircraft business, which grew by 6 percent in 2021; an $11.3 billion defense and space business, which contracted by 2 percent in 2021; and a $7.22 billion helicopter business, which grew by 4 percent in 2021. Cybersecurity is part of Airbus’ defense and space unit, and today includes SOCs, incident response services, and cryptography for NATO countries.

Atos’ stock is up $1.21 (4.04 percent) to $31.14 per share since the Airbus acquisition report was published, while Airbus’ stock is down $0.28 (0.94 percent) to $29.36 per share over the same period. The report of Airbus’ interest comes a month after Bloomberg reported that Paris-based conglomerate Thales had put together an acquisition plan that would break up Atos.

The parts of Atos that Airbus and Thales aren’t interested in buying include the company’s $6.99 billion infrastructure and data management business and its $4.38 billion business and platform solutions units. Those two divisions saw sales fall by 3 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, in 2020. In contrast, sales for Atos’ cybersecurity unit climbed to $1.41 billion in 2020, up 15.8 percent from $1.22 billion in 2019.

Atos’ BDS practice has benefitted from an aggressive acquisition strategy, with the company buying Canadian cybersecurity consulting firm In Fidem in January 2021, Austrian consulting provider SEC Consult Group and Netherlands-based company Motiv ICT Security in December 2021, and Reston, Va.-based managed detection and detection provider Paladion and Paris’ in November 2020.

Thales approached several investment firms including Bain Capital to discuss a deal that would have the private equity firm picking up the parts of Atos that Thales isn’t interested in owning, Bloomberg said. In addition to Bain, Thales’ advisers also begun talks with CVC Capital Partners and PAI partners over a possible joint bid for Atos, but the timing of such a move remains unclear, one source told Reuters.

Thales said last month that it’s potentially interested in acquiring any cybersecurity asset that could be for sale but added that no discussions with Atos are underway on this matter. The company has no intention of moving into markets such as global IT services that it doesn’t serve already, according to the Thales statement.

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