France's OVHcloud kicks off process for potential IPO

PARIS (Reuters) - French cloud computing services provider OVHcloud has started the process for a potential listing in Paris, a spokeswoman said on Monday, in what would be one of the country’s biggest tech transactions of the year.

Founded by Octave Klaba in 1999, OVHcloud is the biggest European-based cloud services provider, competing against U.S. giants Amazon Web Services, Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud, which dominate the market.

French politicians have championed OVHcloud as a possible alternative to U.S. cloud services providers, but it has so far lacked the scale and financial firepower to dent their market share.

OVHcloud has recently sealed partnerships with Europe’s leading telecoms operator Deutsche Telekom, French IT services companies Atos and Capgemini.

The U.S. companies’ dominance has raised concerns in Europe that sensitive corporate data could be accessed in the wake of the adoption of the U.S. CLOUD Act of 2018 and in the absence of any major competitors, except China’s Alibaba.

Amazon, Microsoft and Google say they abide by EU rules and make sure they protect the data customers entrust them.

OVHcloud declined to provide the names of its advisers for the IPO and did not disclose detailed financial information.

Whatever the outcome of the IPO, Klaba, who is chairman of the company, and his family would retain a majority of the company’s shares, the spokeswoman said. The Klaba family currently controls 80% of OVHcloud’s shares.

U.S. investment firms KKR and TowerBrook Capital Partners control the remaining 20%, after a combined 250 million euro-investment in 2016.

Based in Roubaix near Belgium, OVHcloud employs 2,450 people and has 32 data centres worldwide. It generated 600 million euros ($712 million) in sales in 2019.

Klaba hired Michel Paulin, a former top executive at France’s number two telecoms operator SFR, as chief executive in 2018.

($1 = 0.8427 euros)

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by GV De Clercq and David Evans