Atos investors pick board nominees

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Hedge funds laying siege to Atos Origin, France’s second-biggest computer services group, put forward the ousted former chief executive and a shareholder rights activist as two of five supervisory board members they hope to elect.

London’s Centaurus Capital and New York-based Pardus Capital, which between them have 21.67 per cent of Atos, said Bernard Bourigeaud, who helped create Atos, and Colette Neuville, president of shareholder rights group ADAM, would be independent.

Of the five candidates it is putting forward, three would be independent, the funds said. The third is Michel Combes, chief executive of TDF, the broadcast services group. But people close to the company accused the funds of trying to seize control of the supervisory board in order to sell the business, after an auction last spring failed to attract any bids.

The fight between the funds and the company has become increasingly bitter, with Centaurus and Pardus filing legal action in January to eject the supervisory and management boards, according to documents released by the company on Wednesday.

Didier Cherpitel, chairman of the supervisory board, and Philippe Germond, chief executive, used an open letter this week to accuse the funds of a “disloyal attitude” after they had tried to work with the funds.

“Our conclusions remain unchanged: selling the company would involve serious risks and if there are buyers, there is nothing to prevent them from contacting us or to make a public offer for Atos,” they wrote.

At Pardus, redemptions were suspended to prevent forced sales after big losses, causing shares in Atos to fall then rally on Tuesday after the suspension became public.

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