Rise in operating margins at Atos

Atos Origin announced its first dividend in two years as it saw an increase in operating margins, in spite of recording a dip in sales.

The European IT services group recorded a 3.5 per cent decline in sales to €5.02bn ($6.82bn), citing the insolvency of its biggest client in Germany.

“In 2010, we achieved our objectives and exceeded the high end of our operating margin guidance,” said Thierry Breton, chairman and chief executive.

Atos Origin saw operating margins boosted to 6.7 per cent, up from 5.7 per cent in 2009. It is hoping it can raise this again in the coming year, targeting a range of 7.2 to 7.7 per cent.

Net income before exceptional items was €218m, up 11 per cent from 2009.

Revenues were hardest hit in Atos’ German, central European, Middle East and African markets, where they declined 17.8 per cent to €475m. Arcandor, the retail and travel group which was Atos’ largest client in Germany, went bankrupt in 2009 after failing to secure a state credit guarantee.

Sales in Spain also declined to €300m, down 10.4 per cent. Sales in the payment transactions business, which Atos said it would be targeting last year, rose 4.4 per cent to €1.035bn.

The group is two years into a three-year restructuring plan and its workforce was reduced by just over 750 last year. However, the group said it expects a return to “slight” organic growth in 2011.

Atos expanded its European presence through a partnership with Siemens IT services announced last December. The group had net debt of €139m, representing no change from 2009, and including €143m of acquisitions in the UK, Germany and India.

The company will propose a dividend of €0.50 per share. The company last paid a dividend of €0.40 in 2008. Diluted earnings per share were €1.64.

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