Reuters was first to report that French defense group Thales is working on a plan to buy the cybersecurity business of IT consultancy group Atos, as part of a $3 billion tie-up that would test the political determination for shoring up France’s digital defenses. Thales, which ranks as Europe’s largest defense electronics company, and its adviser Centerview Partners, have approached several private equity firms, including Bain Capital, to study a joint offer for Atos, which issued two profit warnings in seven months. Any deal involving buyout funds would likely trigger a break-up of Atos and raise political concern ahead of France’s presidential election in April. Shares in Atos jumped 10% on the news, while Thales’ stock was down 3%.

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