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Atos Shares Jump on Report of French Backing for Potential Thales Merger

By Scott Kanowsky -- Shares in Atos SE (EPA:ATOS) jumped by more than 10% at one point on Thursday after a media report claimed the French government would back a merger between the information technology services group and defense firm Thales (EPA:TCFP).

According to BFM Business, French officials see Thales as the most favorable suitor for Atos, with a tie-up seen as laying down a path to creating a cybersecurity "champion" for France. Other companies that are potentially interested in securing a deal with Atos include European planemaker Airbus (EPA:AIR) and telecoms group Orange (EPA:ORAN), BFM Business said.

The report comes as Atos is battling to recover from a series of setbacks. The company proposed last week a sweeping reorganization effort that would see its key Big Data and cybersecurity units spun off, while its professional services division would also become its own publicly listed entity.

Atos added that current chief executive Rodolphe Belmer would step down from the role in September, after only starting the job earlier this year.

These plans were received coolly by investors, with shares sliding sharply off the back of the announcements. Days later, Atos also said chief financial officer Stéphane Lhopiteau would be departing in the second half of the year.

Shares in Atos are down more than 75% this year.

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