(Bloomberg) -- Teleperformance SE shares plunged Wednesday after a statement from Swedish fintech Klarna rekindled concern that artificial intelligence will hurt the French company’s call-center business.

Buy-now-pay-later lender Klarna said its AI assistant, powered by OpenAI, is doing the equivalent work of 700 full-time agents and has had 2.3 million conversations, equal to two-thirds of the company’s customer service chats, within the first month of being deployed. The AI tool resolved errands much faster and matched human levels on customer satisfaction, Klarna said.

Teleperformance shares fell as much as 29% in Paris trading, the steepest drop since November 2022, amid regular halts for volatility. The company already uses AI to manage simple processes on behalf of its clients, it said in a statement in response to the stock drop.

“The group’s current activity in no way reflects the negative conclusions in its business that could be drawn from the technological developments mentioned in this communication,” Teleperformance said.

“The AI debate has raged on for Teleperformance in 2024,” Morgan Stanley analyst Annelies Vermeulen said in a note. “Until questions around impact of pricing deflation, automated volume and shape of future earnings are answered, the stock performance may remain challenged.”

Teleperformance said in its 2022 annual report that it supplied services to Klarna through subsidiaries located in countries including Sweden, Finland and Colombia. The French company warned last year that as much as 30% of its call volumes could be automated in the next three years as chatbots become mainstream.

US-listed peer Concentrix Corp. declined 12% in premarket trading. Fellow call-center operator TaskUs Inc. also traded lower ahead of its full-year results due after Wednesday’s market close.

Slower Growth

In London, shares of Keywords Studios, which provides external technical support to video-game makers, declined as much as 13%. Potential disruptions from gaming companies’ adoption of AI models were seen as a key concern for the stock.

For Teleperformance, analysts at Deutsche Bank AG said in October that AI is likely to drive significantly slower revenue growth and weaker profitability, relative to the last decade.

Still, TP ICAP Europe strategist Sarah Thirion said Klarna’s comments confirmed that AI tools can be of great help in perfecting customer experience, while not replacing humans altogether.

“AI should remain, in our opinion, a tool at the service of humans,” Thirion said.

--With assistance from Alexandra Muller, Thyagaraju Adinarayan, Lisa Pham and Joshua Gaunt-Warner.

(Updates with Teleperformance statement in fourth paragraph.)

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