Atos runs supercomputers for France's nuclear deterrent, holds French army contracts and is the IT partner for the Paris Olympics

Paris (AFP) - French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Sunday said he had moved to acquire the “sovereign activities” of debt-laden French tech giant Atos and prevent foreign ownership of them.

Atos, which runs supercomputers for France’s nuclear deterrent, holds contracts with the French army and is the IT partner for this year’s Paris Olympics, is sagging under almost five billion euros of debt.

Its financial woes have raised questions about cybersecurity at the showpiece sporting event running from July 26 to August 11, for which the company is managing more than 300,000 accreditations.

Le Maire told television channel LCI that he had sent a letter of intent, a non-binding action, this weekend “with a view to acquiring all the sovereign activities of Atos”.

This would avoid strategic activities “falling under the ownership of foreign actors”, he added.

His office said the concerned activities included the supercomputers, servers using artificial intelligence and quantic computing, and cybersecurity products.

They together generate an annual turnover of 900 million euros ($962 million) out of the Atos group’s total of around 11 billion euros, and employ around 4,000 mostly France-based staff, the office added.

The French state has already pledged a 50-million-euro loan to Atos in a bid to stabilise the company, acquiring a preferential share granting oversight of its critical big data operations.

Le Maire said he hoped other French actors would join the state in this move. According to his office, discussions have been taking place for several weeks with industrial groups.