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Old 19th May 2010, 11:07 PM
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Symantec buying VeriSign's Web-security arm

SAN FRANCISCO — Symantec Corp. is paying $1.28 billion in cash to buy a division of VeriSign Inc. that sells security technology to websites.
The deal, announced Wednesday, represents VeriSign's most aggressive move yet to slim down and concentrate on its core business: managing traffic to websites with addresses ending in ".com" and ".net," and collecting fees for registering those domain names.
VeriSign has been purging divisions for the past three years, after realizing it was spread too thin following a buying binge designed to insulate it from the kinds of problems it had after the dot-com collapse a decade ago.
Prior to Wednesday's deal with Symantec, VeriSign had sold more than a dozen businesses since 2007 for a total of nearly $1 billion.
What Symantec gets out of the deal is one of the Web's best-known brand names for security.
VeriSign's logo — a check mark and the tag "VeriSign Secured" — is ubiquitous on websites that have bought its security technology. The VeriSign division that Symantec is buying sells "certificates" to websites that want protection for their customers' data. The Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, certificates allow data to be encrypted between a user's browser and a website's servers. A padlock icon appears on a user's browser when that technology is being used.
The certificate business has long been a cornerstone for VeriSign, but has come under pressure in recent years.
In part, that's because cheap SSL certificates sold by other companies are easy to come by. The competition has forced VeriSign to sell more of its cheaper SSL certificates, too, even though their security measures are weaker.
Revenue in that division rose just 3 percent last year to $410 million, while revenue in VeriSign's domain-name division jumped 12 percent to $616 million.
Still, at the end of last year, more than 1 million sites were using VeriSign's SSL certificates, making the business an attractive target for a company such as Symantec looking to extend its brand.
While VeriSign has been contracting, Symantec has been expanding beyond its roots as a maker of antivirus software.
Symantec said it expects the deal to add 9 cents to its adjusted earnings per share for the 2011 fiscal year. The deal is expected to close in the September quarter.
The business VeriSign is left with is a lucrative one, but whose weakness following the dot-com collapse was a key reason VeriSign went on a tear with its acquisitions.
VeriSign is critical in steering Internet traffic to ".com" and ".net" Web sites. Its directories help Internet computers locate websites and know where to send e-mail.
The company makes its money by collecting a fee every time someone registers or renews a domain name ending in ".com" or ".net." Although Web site owners buy names through third parties, VeriSign gets fees as operator of the ".com" and ".net" registries.
Those fees generally go up each year, and as of July 1 will be $7.34 per ".com" name and $4.65 per ".net" name. Those fees add up with some 85 million ".com" names and 13 million ".net" names registered — and they account for the bulk of revenue in the domain-name division.
Symantec shares were unchanged in extended trading. They had fallen 32 cents, or 2 percent, to close the regular trading session at $15.63. VeriSign shares rose 74 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $28.73 in extended trading, after falling 24 cents to close at $27.99.
Both companies are based in Mountain View, Calif.
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Last edited by 555; 19th May 2010 at 11:07 PM..
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