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LONDON-ATIS REAL Weatheralls faces a major shakeup of its ownership structure with French bank BNP Paribas set to take a stake.

Paribas is in talks with majority owners Vendome Rome and Credit Lyonnais (now part of Credit Agricole) about refinancing ATIS. If the talks are successful, Paribas would take a stake in the company, while fellow French bank Credit Lyonnais would reduce its holding.

ATIS REAL Weatheralls’ chief executive Greg Cooke says the talks were at a “very early stage and for a minority stake in the business initially”. But already there is speculation that Paribas could increase its stake over time.

The market had been abuzz with rumors that the venture capitalists were trying to sell all of the business, or parts of it. Cooke denies this was the case, saying Vendôme remained firmly committed to ATIS.

He says: “This is a restructuring of the finances and certainly not a takeover. We are reorganising the shareholdings.” Cook adds: “Credit Lyonnais, Vendome Rome and the other French institutional shareholder that own the business are all keeping stakes. It is simply a case of some of the shareholders diluting their stakes to give BNP a holding.”

The Paribas involvment is likely to see a cash injection into ATIS estimated at “tens of millions”.

Vendome Rome, the Michel Moubayeda led French investment, took control of the £60 million ($99.8 million) French agent Atis Auguste Thouard and the 370-strong Muller in 2000. The following year it acquired Weatherall Green & Smith. BNP Paribas would only confirm that it was considering investing in the company

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