Why Daniel Kretinsky is so interested in Atos

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Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky, in Paris, January 22, 2020. JOËL SAGET / AFP

We knew his taste for coal-fired power plants, supermarkets and logistics. We discovered his attraction to computers. Since the summer of 2022, Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky has been working hard to take over Atos, the French number two in the sector.

His first attempt failed in February, despite seven months of sustained negotiations. The debt restructuring undertaken by the IT group in March offers it a second chance, by reproducing the same pattern as for Casino, which fell into its hands at the start of the year.

Why spend so much energy launching into a new profession, so different from electricity production or mass distribution? The financial move is daring, but tempting.

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With 600 million euros of equity, part of which was provided by the British investment company Attestor, the same partner as in the acquisition of Casino, Daniel Kretinsky could get his hands on a company making more than 9 billion euros in turnover and freed from almost all of the 5 billion euros in debt that is suffocating it today. It would have to be reorganized after years of financial wanderings, but the former Czech lawyer built his fortune on reviving hopeless cases. The resale of certain Atos activities could also quickly repay the initial investment.

Need for digital

Beyond the potential gain, Atos has another attraction. “We are interested in the networking industry, in the broad sense. For us, Atos fits into this logic”explains Jiri Novacek, one of Daniel Kretinsky’s main advisors, met on May 21 in Paris, at the offices of Weil, the law firm which advises the Czech businessman in this matter.

To listen to him, the IT services group would even be the link that was missing between Casino, Editis (the billionaire’s two main companies in France), the British distributor Sainsbury’s, its German counterpart Metro, the Dutch logistician PostNL and the dozens of energy assets (power plants, storage sites, gas pipeline) held in Central Europe, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland. These companies have an increasing need for digital technology: in total, the Czech group says it spends 2 billion euros on IT services each year.

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To manage this heterogeneous empire, it was necessary “develop capabilities for monitoring and operating complex IT infrastructures, as well as managing data centers and communication lines along our energy distribution networks”is developing EP Equity Investment (EPEI), Daniel Kretinsky’s Luxembourg investment fund, in its offer to restructure Atos’ debt.

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