IT giant Atos faces collapse if restructuring talks fail

Key government technology supplier Atos is facing “material uncertainty” over its ability to continue trading, auditors have warned in the wake of a $5bn debt revelation.   

In the latest accounts for the British arm of French IT company Atos, auditors from Grant Thornton said the financial problems facing its parent company could limit its ability to access cash and “continue as a going concern” if its refinancing efforts fall through.

As one of UK government’s 40 strategic suppliers, which hold up billions of pounds worth of contracts between them, Atos provides IT systems to a range of government departments and public bodies, including the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions, and the NHS.

According to data cleaning startup Tussell, Atos holds 43 active government contracts amounting to almost £1bn of revenue. This includes for work related to disability benefit assessments, managing NHS appointments and hospital records, various file sharing systems, and software testing.

While the wider Atos Group has been undergoing business transformation exercises since June 2022, taking steps to divest itself of non-core business units, it announced in April 2024 that it was looking at financial restructuring offers to stabilise its finances, after revealing it has a total debt of nearly $5bn.

The auditors noted that Atos “cannot rule out that the outcome of those discussions may be unsuccessful or that the solutions arising from those discussions prove insufficient to cover the group’s financing maturities and cash requirements on a long-term basis,” adding that the situation casts “significant doubt” on the firm’s future.

In its 2023 results, Atos UK added that if the parent company fails to successfully renegotiate its loans or sell its assets, the UK arm could end up being unable to settle its own liabilities. “Atos will inform the market in due course of the progress of the refinancing discussions with its financial creditors, its contemplated disposals, as well as any potential changes in its capital structure arising from a final global refinancing agreement, including the issuance of new equity, which will likely result in a dilution of the existing shareholders,” it wrote.

Atos said on 26 June that a rescue bid led by IT consultancy Onepoint – the company’s largest shareholder – fell through after it withdrew a proposal that would have converted €2.9bn of Atos’s debt into equity and injected €250m of new funds into the struggling company.

However, Atos added that it had restarted talks with Czech billionaire Daniel Křetínsky about a previous restructuring proposal, and that it has also received a revised restructuring plan from a group of its bondholders.

An Atos spokesperson said: “Atos is currently undergoing a financial restructuring, which will create a stable financial future globally and in the UK.

“The provision of services to our customers has remained unaffected, and we will continue providing high-quality services to the UK public and private sectors, as we have for over 30 years.”

According to a report in The i, the Cabinet Office has been working on contingency plans since February to figure out how key contracts can be protected if Atos fails to recover, which includes potentially brining in alternative IT suppliers.

“With the collapse of the current refinancing and restructuring talks, even with new investors reported as starting negotiations, Atos’s future looks precarious,” said Mark Lewis, a specialist IT outsourcing lawyer at Stephenson Harwood.

“The UK government – and other Atos public and private sector customers – are, and are obviously right to be, making contingency plans,” he said. “And if customers haven’t yet made them, they should be, and now. How effective those plans will be in execution is critical. It’s a highly complex paper and operational exercise to deliver successfully.”