Symantec grabs Blue Coat Systems for $4.65 billion

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Symantec announced overnight it had purchased Blue Coat Systems for $4.65 billion with the hopes of creating an enterprise security juggernaut.

As part of the deal, Blue Coat CEO Greg Clark will take over the same role at Symantec. The company has been operating since April without one when Michael A. Brown stepped down.

It was a stunning turn of events for Blue Coat, which was sold just last year to Bain Capital for $2.4 billion. By all reports, Bain intended to take Blue Coat public this year until they received and overwhelming offer from Symantec.

Bain makes a tidy profit off of the deal just a year after buying Blue Coat and intends to take $750 million of the proceeds and plow it back into the combined business.

With Blue Coat, the two companies are combining to create an enterprise security giant. The fact is what you have is two large companies with lots of customers and revenue, but that are under pressure from an increasingly competitive security market, hoping that the combined entity can do better than they could alone.

“Together, we will be best positioned to address the ever-evolving threat landscape, the massive changes introduced by the shift to mobile and cloud, and the challenges created by regulatory and privacy concerns,” Dan Schulman, Chairman of Symantec said in a statement.

One thing the combined organization has going for it is that Symantec has tended to concentrate on on-premises security, while Blue Coat has emphasized web and cloud security, so there is little overlap in products.

The bigger is better strategy is similar to the one Dell is taking with its $67 billion deal with EMC, albeit a much larger bet. Interestingly, Silver Lake, which is a big Dell investor is also involved here, doubling its $500 million investment in Symantec to $1 billion as part of the deal.

The two companies have lots of customers and revenue, but that hasn’t necessarily translated into the financial success you might expect.

Symantec reported revenue was down 2 percent year over year in each of its two reports this year (Q3 2016 and Q4 2016) . What’s more, the company stock has seen an approximately 27 percent drop over the last year, falling from $24.46 on June 18, 2015 to $17.39 as of Friday (with a low of $16.62 in March).

As for Blue Coat, Fortune reports that it had $232 million net loss on $598 million in revenue, but attributed much of the loss to recent acquisitions of Perspecsys and Elastica.

Whether the combined companies will actually perform better than they did separately is an open question. In a time when agility and speed are valued attributes in organizations, creating a larger, less flexible company seems counter to that. One thing the two companies have going for them is lack of overlap, which is unusual in a deal like this, but you have to wonder if scaling up is the right way to go here and whether a large organization can move quickly enough in a rapidly changing market space.

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