PARIS: Shares in French IT consulting firm Atos fell sharply on Thursday after the company disclosed that auditors had found accounting errors at two of the firm's U.S. units.
Atos shares were down 18per cent in early trading on the Paris bourse, then recovered some ground and were trading down 13.8 per cent at 0805 GMT. Citi downgraded its outlook on the stock to neutral, citing the accounting issues.
The entities affected were Atos IT Solutions and Services Inc., and Atos IT Outsourcing Services LLC, which between them represent about 11per cent of Atos's consolidated turnover, Atos said in a statement.
Atos said that as part of a regular audit of its accounts, its accountants had identified problems with financial reporting "leading to several accounting errors".
It said it hired external firms to investigate whether those errors had let to a material misstatement of financial performance, but said there was not enough time to complete this work before the regular audit was published.
"As of today, the Group has not identified misstatements on the two U.S. entities that are material for the consolidated financial statements," the company statement said.
"Atos is committed to the highest standards and the Group is strongly enhancing its preventive controls and processes through a comprehensive action plan."
The French firm said in January it had made an approach to buy U.S. rival DXC Technology in what it called a "friendly transaction". In February, they decided to end the talks.
Atos shares have fallen since the deal talks were announced, with investors questioning the rationale for the acquisition, and have since languished near the bottom of France's blue-chip CAC 40 share index.
JPMorgan analysts wrote in a research note on Wednesday that Atos "dinged investors’ view of its ambitions when it announced that it was looking at a friendly takeover of DXC. Now accounting issues could set the company back a bit further."
(Reporting by Christian Lowe in Paris and Piotr Lipinski in Gdansk; editing by Jason Neely)