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Atos shareholder calls for chairman to resign as share price on 30-year low

·2-min read
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By Julien Ponthus and Mathieu Rosemain

PARIS (Reuters) -A minority shareholder in struggling French IT consulting company Atos called on Friday for the chairman of the company to resign as its shares traded near 30-year lows amid scepticism about its restructuring plan.

"Our main request is that the chairman steps down and that the board members which have been there the longest are replaced with new members who are well recognised in the IT industry", Cyril Charlot, founding partner at Paris-based Sycomore Asset Management, told Reuters.

Sycomore Asset Management owns between 0.5% and 1 % of Atos.

"We have tried to engage with the management and the board in vain so we now think it's time to speak up and we think other shareholders are ready to speak up too", Charlot said.

An Atos spokesperson had no direct comment on Sycomore's call for Chairman Bertrand Meunier to resign, but said the company's management and board members met with Sycomore AM in July and provided the asset manager with written answers.

"Atos gives great importance to the quality of dialogue with shareholders, which is a priority for the board, its president and the management of the group", it said in a statement to Reuters.

Shares in Atos dropped as much as 15% on Thursday after Goldman Sachs cut its rating for the firm to "sell", arguing that its weak financial profile and low visibility foretold a long way to recovery.

"The Goldman Sachs note show that the company has lost the trust of markets and investors", Charlot commented, adding that "if there is no change at the board it will be really hard for the company to regain the trust of investors".

Former CEO Rodolphe Belmer announced in June he would leave Atos just as the group presented a plan to split the company in two groups, with the aim of spinning off and combining its most lucrative assets, including its cybersecurity division BDS.

The company has since secured financing for the turnaround plan but investors have continued to unload the shares, which are down about 75% year-to-date.

"What's needed is careful management, the (split) plan is too ambitious and complicated to implement", Charlot said.

"The main problem of the company is that it is badly run, profit margins, sales growth are below industry averages", he added.

Atos replied in a statement that the whole group was committed to making its strategic plan a success, which would benefit employees, stakeholders and result in significant value in the mid-term for investors.

(Reporting by Julien Ponthus and Mathieu Rosemain, editing by Silvia Aloisi and Louise Heavens)