Atos denies Permira approach

French IT firm Atos has denied receiving a €4 billion buyout offer from Permira and US hedge fund Centaurus Capital, in what would be an unusual example of a private equity firm and a hedge fund working together to take a company private.

Atos Origin, a French IT firm, has denied reports that it is negotiating a €4 billion ($5.3 billion) buyout deal with UK buyout firm Permira and US hedge funds Centaurus Capital.

Atos, France’s second largest IT services provider, said that it had not received a €4 billion bid, and was not working on a sale. However, it admitted that it had received expressions of interest.

In a statement, the company said: “Despite expressions of interest made to it that did not constitute offers, the company is not engaged in any financial operation with respect to its share capital.”

This morning the company’s share price jumped 30 percent to 51.25, its highest level for many years, after Dow Jones reported that Permira and Centaurus had made a €58 per share bid for Atos. Trading was eventually suspended with the share price at €48.42, forcing the company to issue the statement.

It is the second time in a matter of months Atos has been forced to deny buyout negotiations. In October, The Blackstone Group was reported to be buying the company for about €54 per share.

The company has since its share price fall by a third in thye last year due to shrinking margins and poor performance in the UK and Italy. It reported a net loss for 2006.

A joint bid by Permira and Centaurus would be a rare example of a private equity firm partnering with a hedge fund to bid for an asset. Centaurus is currently one of Atos’s biggest shareholders, with a 9.5 percent stake.