VeriSign Plunges After CFO Robins’s Departure Damps Takeover Speculation

VeriSign Inc. (VRSN) tumbled the most in six years after the company announced the departure of Chief Financial Officer Brian Robins, squelching speculation that it was poised to be acquired.

The shares dropped $4.88, or 14 percent, to $29.03 at 4 p.m. New York time on the Nasdaq Stock Market, for the biggest plunge since July 2005. The stock had jumped 13 percent this week before today after the company canceled appearances at two conferences, one by Robins, fueling rumors that VeriSign was in talks to be bought.

An interim CFO will be named soon, Dulles, Virginia-based VeriSign said yesterday in a statement. Chairman and founder Jim Bidzos has been filling the chief executive officer role after Mark McLaughlin left last month to take the top job at Palo Alto Networks Inc. Shareholders were hoping the cancellations might indicate positive news for VeriSign, which operates computers that direct Internet traffic.

Pulling out of two events without explanation suggests that a “significant corporate action may be pending,” said Ed Maguire, an analyst at Credit Agricole Securities Inc.

Part of the reason for the buyout speculation stems from a previous VeriSign speech cancellation. In May 2010, the company backed out of a presentation at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) conference, citing a scheduling conflict. A day later, it announced plans to sell its authentication-services unit to Symantec Corp. (SYMC) for $1.28 billion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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