19 June 2002 Struggling French systems vendor Groupe Bull is to seek more funding through a recapitalisation, which may involve the company selling itself to new owners. According to The Wall Street Journal, Bull CEO Pierre Bonelli will present the Bull board with several options for recapitalising the company by the end of the summer.
The recapitalisation, which is expected to take place in the early part of 2003, will force existing investors to either increase their financial commitments or reduce their shareholdings. Investors include France Telecom, Motorola, NEC, Dai Nippon Printing and the French Government.
According to Bonelli, this process could result in the complete sale of Bull to new owners. Indeed, this looks quite probable considering that the French Government has already expressed its wish to sell its 16% stake and other investors have so far resisted demands to re-finance Bull, which has been struggling in the face of mounting losses and several failed restructurings.
As yet, it is too early to say whether Bull will target specific investors for recapitalisation, says Bonelli, who took the CEO’s role in December 2001 and has invested €100,000 of his own money in the company.
Bull’s previous management sold several units of Bull, in whole or in parts, to other companies. Despite these asset sales, the company became so financially strapped that it has had to rely on the French state to provide €450 million in loans this year. Under Bonelli, Bull has cut 1,500 jobs and restructured into two “large divisions” in France – ‘Bull Technologies’ and ‘Bull Services’.