Symantec Climbs Following Silver Lake, Elliott Investments

  • Silver Lake's $500 million helps fund $5.5 billion buyback
  • Quarterly sales, profit top estimates on cybersecurity demand

Shares in Symantec Corp., the maker of cybersecurity software, rose Friday after getting investments from Silver Lake Management LLC and Elliott Management Corp.

A $500 million injection from Silver Lake, one of the most prominent technology investment firms which also got a seat on the board, should help boost investors’ confidence that Symantec is getting good advice about acquisitions from a partner with its own money at stake. Meanwhile, activist investor Elliott’s purchase of a large stake might increase pressure on Symantec Chief Executive Officer Michael Brown to streamline costs while the company focuses on its core security software and services and targets growth.

“They’re going through a major transition as a company , and Silver Lake getting involved at this point could only probably help them,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. “Silver Lake is a very respected voice on the Street relative to what they’ve done in the tech sector and having them in Symantec’s corner is probably a good thing.”

Symantec said it will return $5.5 billion to shareholders, funded in part from the Silver Lake investment as well as the recent sale of its storage division. The company also announced that it plans to cut $400 million in costs by the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

Symantec gained 3 percent to $19.76 at the close in New York. The shares have declined 5.9 percent this year.

A pioneer of the industry, Symantec has been under pressure to reshape itself to focus on anti-hacking technology as PC sales have fallen to their lowest levels since 2008, eviscerating revenue from the antivirus software the company historically bundled with the machines. Established rivals and startups have been capturing bigger pieces of the cybersecurity market, which is expanding in response to advanced attacks from nations like China, Iran and Russia.

The company has been adapting, in part, by acquiring other providers, including making two purchases last year. 

Elliott Management’s stake purchase was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal Thursday.

Veritas Sale

Symantec on Jan. 29 completed the $7.4 billion sale of Veritas to The Carlyle Group, marking a divestiture that analysts and investors had been urging for years. Chief Executive Officer Michael Brown pushed for the split as a way to increase investment in staff and development at a time of record demand for cybersecurity technologies. Gartner Inc. estimates that global spending in the industry will rise 8 percent this year to $83.6 billion.

Services such as data-breach investigations and outsourcing are accelerating as companies look for ways to stay ahead of increasingly sophisticated threats -- and clean up after finding themselves on the wrong side of attacks.

Symantec said it had repurchased $500 million in shares, plans to buy back $2.3 billion more through March 2017 and give investors a special dividend of $4 a share, equaling $2.7 billion. The buybacks and dividend represent all of Symantec’s after-tax cash proceeds from the Veritas unit deal.

After the capital return, Symantec said it will have about $5 billion in cash to make acquisitions. Ives said the cash hoard is the “golden goose” that investors expect will be deployed for purchases.

Earnings Forecast

The company also Thursday reiterated its earlier forecast that profit, excluding some items, will be from 24 cents a share to 27 cents a share in the current quarter, on revenue of $885 million to $915 million. Analysts projected an average of 25 cents a share on sales of $901.9 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Profit, excluding certain items, was 26 cents a share, on revenue of $909 million in the fiscal third quarter ended Jan. 1, Symantec said in a statement. Analysts estimated 24 cents a share and sales of $906.0 million.

Net income in the fiscal third quarter declined to $170 million, or 25 cents a share, from $222 million, or 32 cents, in the period a year earlier.

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