Atos reports jump in profits after strong 2011 -

Atos announced strong financial results for 2011, as it marches closer to becoming debt free after its acquisition of Siemens’ IT services arm.

Atos saw its operating margins hit €442 million ($587 million), representing 6.2 percent of revenues, as compared to 4.3 percent in 2010, with Atos CEO Thierry Breton claiming it has beaten analyst estimates of six percent.

This amounted to a 25.2 percent increase over the previous year’s operating margin of €337.4 million ($448.6 million).

The French firm’s revenue, which includes six months before the Siemens acquisition, was €6.8 billion ($9.0 billion) during 2011, with a 35 percent increase over €5.0 billion ($6.6 billion) in 2010.  Organic revenue growth was up to 2.2 percent.

Free cash flow was €194 million ($257 million), a jump of 36 percent from the previous year.  Breton predicts that free cash flow would reach up to €250 million ($332 million) this year, and €400 million ($531 million) in 2013.

The increase in free cash flow brought net debt to €142 million ($188 million) at the end of 2011.  Breton claimed that following the acquisition of SIS last year, Atos was fully on its way to becoming a “zero debt company”. According to Breton, having cash in the company vault is important in “an environment which is still unstable”.

Atos had purchased Siemens' IT and Services arm back in July last year following an announcement at the tail-end of 2010.  The deal cost Atos €850 million ($1.1 billion), but the company is now confident it will wipe debts ahead of schedule with an increase in free cash flow. Breton claims the firm will be debt free as early as the end of February.

Breton said that, following the integration of SIS, Atos will “continue to focus on innovation”.  The company recently announced the start of a cloud venture, Canopy, with its partners EMC and VMware.