VeriSign’s yo-yo diet

We’ve noted several times in the past that former binge eater VeriSign has set itself on a fairly severe corporate diet. (Last November, we outlined VeriSign’s divestiture plan that could trim up to one-third of the company’s revenue.) Having already sold off three businesses so far in 2008, VeriSign is nearing a fourth divestiture, we hear.

At the America’s Growth Capital security conference in early April, we heard hallway chatter that VeriSign was deep into talks with a networking equipment vendor and a services shop about selling its managed security service provider (MSSP) business. Now, a source indicates that VeriSign has a letter of intent signed to shed its MSSP business. The acquirer isn’t immediately known, but we hear it’s a strategic, rather than financial, buyer. Given the recent moves by telcos to buy security service shops – for instance, Verizon Business’ purchase of Cybertrust a year ago and BT Group’s acquisition of Counterpane Internet Security in October 2006 – we could also imagine a phone company adding the MSSP business to its service offering.

Like any divorce, a divestiture tends to take longer and be more expensive than any of the parties imagined at the start. And we can only guess at the discount for VeriSign’s MSSP business. The divestiture would effectively unwind its $140m cash-and-stock acquisition of Guardent in December 2003. Ironically, VeriSign inked the Guardent purchase at a time when it was also dieting, having shed its domain name-registry business and other assets. Is this the corporate equivalent of yo-yo dieting? 

Coming and going at VeriSign

Year Acquisitions Divestitures
YTD 2008 0 3
2007 0 1
2006 8 1
2005 7 1

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase