PARIS, April 19 French IT services group Steria , which has agreed to an all-share offer from Sopra , denied having engaged in discussions with rival Atos and said the latter's bid was unsolicited.
The takeover saga in France's IT services sector took a new turn on Friday after Atos said its bid for Steria, made before Steria agreed Sopra's offer, was in cash and was still on the table.
In a statement released late on Friday, Steria responded by saying that it had "clearly indicated that it did not wish to enter into discussions with Atos". Nevertheless, it said, Atos sent a letter to its board on April 4 about a possible offer of 22 euros per share.
"It was therefore an unsolicited step and one aimed at disrupting the exclusive ongoing negotiations with Sopra Group," Steria said. "Steria reiterates its rejection of the unsolicited proposal."
Sopra's 730 million euro ($1.01 billion) offer for Steria, valued at 22 euros a share and offering one Sopra share for every four Steria shares, was announced on April 8.
The deal would create the third-biggest French player in its home market with revenue of more than 3.1 billion euros.
On April 17, Steria confirmed a report that Atos had approached it with a bid for about 22 euros a share before it agreed to the Sopra deal. It said both boards had been aware of the rival proposal but decided to go ahead with their deal.
Atos' Friday announcement said that Steria replied on April 7 saying it was "not in a position to examine" the offer. It said that its offer would remain on the table until the proposed extraordinary shareholders meeting at Sopra on May 27. ($1 = 0.7228 Euros) (Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Rosalind Russell)