SYMANTEC CORP. $16 (Nasdaq symbol SYMC; WSSF Rating: Average) makes software that helps guard computers from viruses and electronic attacks. Its best-known product is Norton Anti-Virus, the world’s top selling anti-virus program.
In the past few years, Symantec has aggressively expanded its corporate services operations. Selling a variety of programs to businesses gives it steadier revenue streams than consumer software sales.
As part of this strategy, Symantec recently paid $11 billion in stock for Veritas Software Corp., which specializes in data storage products for businesses. That’s huge considering that Symantec earned just $0.26 a share (total $282.4 million) on revenue of $1.25 billion in its third fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2005. These figures exclude merger expenses and other one-time costs. The company spends 15% of its sales of $3.50 a share on research, so it’s more profitable than it appears.
It will take several months for Symantec to fully absorb Veritas, but we feel the two companies’ products fit well together. New privacy and other laws are forcing businesses to store more information for longer periods of time, so demand for Veritas’ products should grow. Symantec’s other products should help secure this information from outside intruders.
The company’s consumer business has also come under pressure, as Microsoft plans to launch a new online computer security service later this year. That has prompted Symantec’s main competitors to cut prices to hold on to their current customers.
However, Symantec’s recent acquisitions of several smaller software makers give it access to technologies that will help protect customers from new online threats such as identity theft. That should help it compete with Microsoft and others.
The stock rose to $24 just after the Veritas merger, but has dropped by a third since. It now trades at 16.2 times the $0.99 a share it should earn in fiscal 2006. However, the stock will likely move sideways until the benefits of the Veritas acquisition materialize.
Symantec is a hold for aggressive investors.