To analyseAcquired in 2019 by the French defense specialist, the former leader of the smart card benefits from its strike force to ensure its development.
In Gémenos (Bouches-du-Rhône), the former Gemalto site now displays the blue colors of Thales, which bought the company in April 2019. However, barely entering the building, the visitor is greeted by the remains of this great name, now disappeared, of electronics in France. A window displays shabby photos of the company’s co-founders; from the Rousset garage (Bouches-du-Rhône) where it was launched (in 1988 under the name of Gemplus) before it moved to Gémenos – the town which inspired its name; and some of the first products that made it successful: phone card, payment card, etc.
Upstairs throne a graffiti made during a party celebrating the 20 years of the company, then in full prosperity. Above a naively drawn planet Earth, the artist tagged the letters of the name Gemalto – the result of the merger, in 2006, of Gemplus and Axalto – and spread some of his products around the globe, a way to signify his conquest of the world. Champion of the ultra-secure chip, for bank cards and SIM cards in particular, the French posted a growth rate of 20% at the time, positioning itself as a champion of digital identity.
In 2017, the company, which went public five years earlier, suffered headwinds. From 7.6 billion euros at the height of its fame, the company saw its capitalization drop to less than 3 billion, and became an attractive target. In 2017, after an initial offer of 4.3 billion euros launched by Atos, Gemalto preferred the slightly higher offer (4.8 billion euros) from Thales, for whom it was a question of diversifying its activities and to become more anchored in the digital world.
Clear battle plan
At the head of Gemalto at the time of these negotiations, Philippe Vallée does not regret his choice. “Thales has created a specific division for Gemalto [Thales DIS, pour “Digital Identity and Security”] which allows him to preserve his business model. Atos’ project was very different ”, he explains. For the most part, employment has been preserved. Of the 15,000 jobs Gemalto had before its integration, around 200 have been lost.
In return, Philippe Vallée, who remains at the helm of this new branch, is delighted to benefit from the “Thales financial strength” in order to be able to pursue its developments, with a clear battle plan: to innovate to consolidate its positions in its mature markets – banking services and connectivity – in order to be able to finance the activities that will experience the strongest growth in the future.
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