Bull SAS (also known as Groupe Bull, Bull Information Systems, or simply Bull) is a French computer company headquartered in Les Clayes-sous-Bois, in the western suburbs of Paris. The company has also been known at various times as Bull General Electric, Honeywell Bull, CII Honeywell Bull, and Bull HN. Bull was founded in 1931, as H.W. Egli - Bull, to capitalize on the punched card technology patents of Norwegian engineer Fredrik Rosing Bull (1882–1925). After a reorganization in 1933, with new owners coming in, the name was changed to Compagnie des Machines Bull (CMB). Bull has a worldwide presence in more than 100 countries and is particularly active in the defense, finance, health care, manufacturing, public, and telecommunication sectors.
On 31 July 1919, a Norwegian engineer named Fredrik Rosing Bull filed a patent for a "combined sorter-recorder-tabulator of punch cards" machine that he had developed with financing from the Norwegian insurance company Storebrand. Storebrand integrated his device into its operations in 1921. The following year Bull sold his second machine to the Danish insurer Hafnia who had learned of the technology through an article in an insurance trade magazine. At the time of Bull's death of cancer in 1925 at the age of 43, a dozen of his machines had been sold to different companies throughout Europe. The commercial and technical development of the machines continued under the direction of Bull's childhood friend and long-time collaborator Reidar Knutsen along with his brother Kurt Andréas Knutsen.
As the business grew several outside investors were brought in, leading to the incorporation of the company H.W. Egli Bull in 1931. In 1933, more investors joined and the company changed its name to Compagnie des Machines Bull, a name it would keep until 1964.
The company has undergone many takeovers and mergers since its formation. In particular, it has had various ownership relations with General Electric, Honeywell, and NEC from the 1960s to the 1980s; and with Motorola, Debeka, and France Télécom more recently. It acquired Honeywell Information Systems in the late 1980s, and later also had a share of Zenith Data Systems and Packard Bell. Bull was nationalised in 1982 and was merged with most of the rest of the French computer industry.
In August 2014, the French IT company Atos announced that it had acquired a controlling stake in Bull SA through a tender offer launched in May. Atos announced plans in October, 2014 to buy out or squeeze out the remaining share and bondholders.
Bull launched the Hoox m2, the first integrally secured European smartphone, which in June 2014 was approved for use with data classified as 'Restricted Information' ('Diffusion Restreinte') by the Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d'information (ANSSI). The Hoox range of secure mobiles and smartphones ensures confidentiality of voice, SMS, e-mail and data communication.
Amesys, a Groupe Bull subsidiary specializing in defense and aerospace-related systems and software, became embroiled in controversy in 2011 when it was revealed that it had sold an internet monitoring system to the Muammar Gaddafi regime of Libya in 2007. The Eagle System was used by the Gaddafi regime to spy on citizens and foreign journalists. On 12 March 2013 Reporters Without Borders named Amesys as one of five "Corporate Enemies of the Internet" and "digital era mercenaries" for selling products that have been or are being used by governments to violate human rights and freedom of information. A judicial inquiry was opened by the French government in May 2012 following allegations of complicity in torture by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). In March 2012 Groupe Bull divested itself of the Eagle System, selling it for the sum of 4 million euros to Nexa Technologies, a company run by a former Amesys CEO.