Security sector ripe for M&A

Contact: Ben Kolada

Thousands of security executives, bankers and investors descended on San Francisco last week for the annual RSA and America’s Growth Capital West Coast Information Security & Emerging Growth conferences. (Many of them also joined us at our executive-only breakfast last week.) Nearly 700 companies exhibited at the two conferences, and after speaking with many of these companies we walked away convinced that the number of M&A opportunities in enterprise security seem as large as ever.

Many of these companies saw explosive growth in 2011, and the forecasts are equally bullish for this year. One such company is network security analytics startup Solera Networks. Following RSA last year, we predicted that NetWitness would soon sell – we were right. This year, we expect NetWitness rival Solera to get some acquisition attention. We hear that the company generated just under $10m in sales last year, but is growing quickly. Although Solera’s current revenue is much smaller than what NetWitness generated in the year before its sale, we wouldn’t be surprised if its investors expect a comparable valuation. Including a recent $20m series D funding round secured in January, Solera’s investors have collectively put $51m into the company. NetWitness, on the other hand, had taken in just about $20m before its sale.

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EMC bolsters security portfolio with NetWitness

Contact: Brenon Daly, Josh Corman

Announcing its first deal in almost five months, EMC moved to bolster its security management portfolio by picking up fast-growing NetWitness. The purchase adds the rich network data and powerful analysis capabilities of the NetWitness NextGen platform, which is a bit like a TiVo for network traffic – capturing, indexing and storing massive amounts of network traffic. From a financial point of view, it is EMC’s first significant security acquisition since buying RSA Security in mid-2006.

In fact, we would estimate that the price of NetWitness tops EMC’s spending, collectively, on the four bolt-on acquisitions it has made to RSA since the $2.1bn deal. According to our understanding, NetWitness more than doubled revenue to about $45m in 2010. Given the growth rate and premium customer list NetWitness had assembled, we have no trouble believing market speculation that EMC paid $450-500m for NetWitness. A double-digit multiple isn’t out of whack for a fast-growing startup that has strategic value to EMC. We understand, for instance, that last summer EMC paid just shy of $400m for Greenplum, a data-warehousing startup that was clipping along at just under $30m in sales.

RSA = Rumors Swirling Around

Contact: Brenon Daly

Candidly, one of the main reasons we’ve always enjoyed the RSA conference is all the gossip at the event. From the show floor to get-togethers that take place along the periphery of the conference, people talk. That’s especially true at the boozy after-hours parties sponsored by vendors and their backers, where the focus is more on martinis than malware.

And once again, last week’s conference didn’t disappoint, with ‘RSA’ once again living up to its abbreviation of ‘rumors swirling around.’ Of course, most of the speculation centered on which security company was going to get taken out next. That’s more than a guessing game if you consider the following conference regulars that have been gobbled up just since last year’s RSA event: McAfee, ArcSight, PGP, SonicWall, Arcot Systems along with dozens of other smaller companies.

As for the next significant player to go, we heard a fair amount of M&A buzz around NetWitness. The company sells a powerful network-analysis platform for traffic capture, classification and analysis, and is thought to be running at roughly $60m in sales. The Washington DC-based startup is run by Amit Yoran, who already sold a company to Symantec back in 2002. (Private equity firm Summit Partners picked up a minority stake in NetWitness about a year ago.) The two names that came up most often as the rumored buyer of NetWitness were Hewlett-Packard, looking to add to its recent ArcSight acquisition, and Cisco, which has already done deals to add security to its core network business.