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Symantec Diversifies Again, Buys Altiris
It's Symantec's biggest acquisition since it bought Veritas for $13.5 million two years ago, an unpopular, ill-fitting move

Although Symantec anticipates having to cut $200 million of its own costs, can 5% of its staff and buy back a billion-dollar worth of its stock to keep the price up, it's going to buy Altiris, the $200 million-a-year provisioning and management software house whose widgetry is sold by HP and Dell.

It will pay $830 million cash (that's net of the $200 million Altiris has in the bank), paying $33 a share, better than a 20% premium, out of the $3 billion it has socked away.

It's Symantec's biggest acquisition since it bought Veritas for $13.5 million two years ago, an unpopular, ill-fitting move that trashed Symantec's stock, a situation that continues. Wall Street is afraid Altiris is a case of Veritas writ small.

Last week Symantec came in with soft December results and cut its full-year guidance because of Veritas, causing some on the Street to fret that the timing of the Altiris deal was, if nothing else, less than ideal. They think Symantec should be focusing on its own problems, especially with Microsoft breathing down its neck on the security side. (According to the NPD Group, the Norton side of Symantec lost over 11 points of market share to Microsoft, CA and Trend Micro in Q4 and just the other day Microsoft pushed its Norton-competing XP/Vista Windows Live OneCare, previously just an American product, out internationally.)

Anyway, Symantec said Monday morning that it didn't want to lose Altiris merely because of a missed quarter. It also said it didn't want a bidding war. For some reason Symantec wouldn't divulge the break-up fee that would be paid if a raider stole Altiris away. It will be disclosed soon anyway in the proxy.

HP CEO Mark Hurd, who has competing technologies and is on a software management kick, was informed of the merger the Friday before it was announced. Symantec claims Altiris' OEM deals won't be impacted.

Altiris has been begging to be acquired for some time and its deal with Dell evidently provoked Symantec to move. Anyway, Altiris is no stranger. Symantec had to pay it $10 million once to sidestep patent litigation.

Like Veritas, Altiris sells to corporates - albeit more to SMEs than Veritas' larger customers - while Symantec is by nature a consumer security play. As Symantec CEO John Thompson explains it, "The most secure endpoint is a well-managed endpoint." He painted a picture of an end-to-end software portfolio that effectively creates a closed loop.

Thompson claims Altiris will make Symantec more competitive with Microsoft. Altiris supports multiple platforms where Microsoft does not; on the other hand, Symantec expects Vista to be a catalyst for management and migration. Altiris will also feed Symantec's virtualization ambitions.

The intent is to close the deal in the second quarter, probably June. Altiris will operate for the foreseeable future as a freestanding subsidiary under current management. Symantec said it wouldn't try to integrate it the way it did Veritas so as not to disrupt Altiris' fortunes.

Symantec anticipates Altiris becoming accretive in FY08 based solely on back-office cost savings, not on any spike in revenue though there are those who figure it did the deal merely for the growth - to impress Wall Street, you understand. Altiris isn't that strong in Asia and Europe and Symantec should be able to help.

About Virtualization News
SYS-CON's Virtualization News Desk trawls the news sources of the world for the latest details of virtualization technologies, products, and market trends, and provides breaking news updates from the Virtualization Conference & Expo.

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