Symantec CEO Open to Industry-Shaking Deal After Proving Period

(Bloomberg) -- Symantec isn’t done making deals.

The 35-year-old cybersecurity company, which completed two multibillion-dollar acquisitions over the past 14 months, is open to another large purchase after a period of paying down debt and proving to Wall Street it can meet growth targets, Chief Executive Officer Greg Clark said.

“There are things that could absolutely change everything in the industry if they made sense and was good for our equity,” Clark said in an interview last week at Bloomberg’s San Francisco office. “At some point in the future something like that could be helpful.”

Symantec has repositioned itself to focus exclusively on cybersecurity, completing the sale of its Veritas data-storage division in 2016 for $7.4 billion. It has also bolstered products for businesses through the acquisition of network security provider Blue Coat Systems Inc. while adding identity-theft protection tools for consumers by buying LifeLock Inc. Since becoming CEO about a year ago, Clark has spent much of his time integrating the new businesses and reorganizing the sales force.

“We are happy with the portfolio we’ve got right now,” he said. “The next few quarters are all about execution.”

So far, investors have endorsed Symantec’s strategy. The company’s shares are up 30 percent since Clark took over on Aug. 16, 2016, bringing its market capitalization to about $18.4 billion. That compares with a gain of 14 percent for a benchmark exchange-traded fund that tracks a group of cybersecurity companies.

For Symantec to meet its organic revenue growth forecasts of mid- to high-single digits for fiscal 2019 and 2020, “a lot of things have to go right,” said Mandeep Singh, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst in New York. “They have to show investors that they can get there. They literally have to take market share.”

Clark said Symantec can win share from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab Inc., which was removed from a list of U.S. government approved vendors earlier this year, and McAfee, in which Intel Corp. sold a majority stake last year to TPG for $4.2 billion.

As for a big acquisition, Clark referenced Oracle’s 2005 purchase of PeopleSoft, which moved the company into applications software and reduced its dependence on database software sales.

“This kind of stuff is definitely going to be available to us,” Clark said. 

Splunk Inc., the San Francisco-based application software company with a $9.3 billion market value, is an attractive acquisition target for a strategic buyer, Clark said. He didn’t say whether it could be a good fit for Symantec.

For now, Clark is focused on meeting financial targets over the next several quarters and said that the company’s leverage will be “really low” next summer. The Mountain View, California-based company had a net debt to Ebitda ratio of 9.8 as of June 30, the highest in the Nasdaq 100 Stock Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Then, I think the sky’s the limit,” Clark said.

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