PARIS (Reuters) - French IT consulting group Atos ATOS.PA has chosen its young finance chief Elie Girard to lead the company after CEO Thierry Breton was put forward as a candidate for France's next EU commissioner.
Girard, 40, will succeed Breton from Nov. 1, the board said, in a move welcomed by investors. Appointed CFO four years ago, Girard is a former executive at French telecoms group Orange ORAN.PA and was groomed by Breton to succeed him in the top job.
Breton will remain non-executive chairman after Atos decided to separate the positions of CEO and chairman.
“You have now known Elie for a long time and I want to emphasise that he has been carefully prepared, especially by me, for the job over the past decade,” Breton said in an analysts call.
The announcement coincided with publication of third-quarter comparable sales up 1.8% at 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 billion), helping to send the share price nearly 8% higher by 0750 GMT.
In the event Breton is confirmed as commissioner by the European Parliament, Bertrand Meunier, one of board members will replace Breton as non-executive chairman.
Breton, who was French finance minister under late President Jacques Chirac, has been chief executive and chairman of Atos since 2009.
Under his tenure as boss of Atos, the company has more than doubled revenue that reached 12.3 billion euros last year, having bought assets from Germany’s Siemens SIEGn.DE, U.S. group Xerox XRX.N and France-based computer company Bull.
The bulk of the group's sales stem from multi-year contracts, with activities ranging from infrastructure and data management to digital transformation, data processing and payment services through Worldline WLN.PA.
In his final remarks on the analyst call, Breton joked about a potential positive market reaction to his departure.
“You know that I’m absolutely convinced that Atos is really underpriced ... but please maybe don’t do it too much today ... some of you may say ‘the market celebrates the departure of Thierry Breton’,” he said, chuckling.
($1 = 0.8989 euros)
Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by David Goodman
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