McAfee is considering a combination with ex-Symantec consumer business NortonLifeLock in a deal that would unite two longtime competitors, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The platform security giant is looking at joining its own consumer business with the US$2.41 billion pure consumer operation of NortonLifeLock, The Wall Street Journal reported. McAfee declined to comment, while NortonLifeLock didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
There is no guarantee that a deal will be struck at this time, and none is likely before the first quarter of next year, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s because six of NortonLifelock’s 12 directors, including chairman Daniel Schulman, are slated to leave after the company’s annual meeting on 19 December 2019.
McAfee joins private equity firms Permira and Advent International as potential suitors for NortonLifeLock, who the Wall Street Journal reported in September were looking to team up and make a US$16.4 billion bid for the business. NortonLifeLock’s stock was up one dollar (3.94 percent) in after-hours trading to US$26.40 per share, which is the highest the company’s stock has traded since May 2018.
The interest from McAfee comes just a month after Broadcom’s US$10.7 billion acquisition of Symantec’s Enterprise Security business closed, at which time the Symantec name transitioned over to Broadcom’s ownership. The consumer business remained an independent, publicly-traded entity, and immediately changed its name to NortonLifeLock.
Also in November, NortonLifeLock promoted chief financial officer Vincent Pilette to CEO, replacing Richard Hill, who had run the company since May on an interim basis. Pilette told investors last month that NortonLifeLock needs to eliminate US$1.3 billion in costs, with the firm already cutting its headcount by 8 percent over the previous quarter and putting four or five corporate campuses up or sale.
Pilette and a new independent director are expected to be elected to NortonLifeLock’s board at the company’s annual meeting, which the Wall Street Journal reported will pave the way for the new board to discuss M&A alternatives soon after.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg had reported in August that McAfee was working with Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and a full banking syndicate in pursuit of an initial public offering that could value the company at more than $8 billion. Private equity firm TPG has held a majority stake in McAfee since April 2017, with Intel and private equity firm Thoma Bravo both holding minority stakes.
But Monday’s Wall Street Journal report said the spotty performance of recent technology IPOs had prompted McAfee to more seriously consider other options, including an outright sale. Under such a scenario, The Wall Street Journal said McAfee’s enterprise and consumer units could potentially go to different buyers, which would put the company in the same boat as Symantec.
McAfee was valued at $4.2 billion at the time of its spinout from Intel, well below the $7.6 billion Intel initially paid to acquire the company back in 2010.