Where might Symantec shop?

Contact: Brenon Daly

After its double-header encryption deals last week, Symantec appears set to return to M&A. Like a number of tech giants, Big Yellow largely shunned dealmaking last year. But the drop-off was particularly notable at Symantec: It spent more than $1bn on acquisitions in both 2007 and 2008, but less than $100m in 2009. We would hasten to add that in the fiscal year that just ended on April 2, Symantec generated $1.7bn in cash flow from operations. That brought its cash stash to more than $3bn.

As to where the company might be shopping, my colleague Paul Roberts in our Enterprise Security Program outlines five areas that make sense for Symantec to buy its way into – as well as who might be of interest in those markets. In a new report, Roberts looks for M&A activity from Symantec in the following areas: threat detection and reputation monitoring, SIEM and vulnerability management, enterprise rights management, database security and endpoint control. All of those areas are a long way from Symantec’s original market of antivirus software.

A final thought on Big Yellow and its possible shopping is that the company actually enjoys a fair amount of goodwill on Wall Street right now. Symantec’s fiscal fourth quarter, which it reported Wednesday, was surprisingly strong for many investors, particularly after rival McAfee had a less-than-stellar first quarter. In fact, on many trading screens Symantec was the only green stock Thursday on an otherwise blood-red day. Symantec shares closed up less than 2%, but that was on a day that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummet almost 1,000 points, or 9%, in afternoon trading.