Cyber Security Firm's 50 Percent Drop Fuels Takeover Talk

  • NCC’s market value halves as it slashes 2017 profit forecasts
  • Company is now ‘in-play’ as an M&A target, Shore Capital says

NCC Group plc’s third profit warning since October triggered a 50 percent slump in its share price over two trading sessions, prompting a London broker to suggest the Manchester, England-based cyber-security consultancy could become a takeover target.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, the company announced a review into its assurance division, which performed below expectations, and cut its full-year profit outlook by 20 percent.

NCC shares were down 20 percent at 101 pence at 2:50 p.m. in London. The company’s market capitalization, which stood at just over 1 billion pounds ($1.18 billion) prior to a profit warning four months ago, has now dropped to about 250 million pounds.

The share price decline means the company is now “in-play,” Shore Capital said, noting that NCC will appoint external consultants to lead the review. “We believe disposals, a breakup of the group or indeed a full sale may come under consideration,” the broker said in a note to clients.

A spokesman for NCC declined to comment on whether the company would work toward a sale, or on the future of its Chief Executive Officer Rob Cotton. NCC’s chairman of 17 years Paul Mitchell stepped down in January, with senior independent director and Restaurant Group chairman Debbie Hewitt tasked with finding a replacement.

Hewitt will be “crucial” in deciding the direction of the company, Shore Capital said.

NCC was founded in 1999 when the commercial arm of the National Computing Center, established by the U.K. government to encourage personal computer use, was bought out by its management team.

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