Cyber security firm Avast surges on takeover talks with Norton antivirus owner

·Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
·2 min read
PORTUGAL - 2019/12/20: In this photo illustration an Avast Antivirus logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
An Avast Antivirus logo seen displayed on a smartphone. Photo: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Shares in FTSE 100 (^FTSE) cyber security company Avast (AVST.L) surged on Thursday after news broke of takeover talks with the parent company of Norton antivirus software.

Avast said in a statement on Thursday morning it was "in advanced discussions" with Nasdaq-listed NortonLifeLock (NLOK) about a potential merger. The statement followed a report from the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday night breaking news of the talks.

NortonLifeLock, which owns Norton antivirus software and sells other cyber security products, put out its own statement on the talks.

"A combination of NortonLifeLock and Avast would bring together two companies with aligned visions, highly complementary business profiles and a joint commitment to innovation that helps protect and empower people to live their digital lives safely," the board of NortonLifeLock said.

"We would draw on the best of both companies to ensure that the combination would benefit our customers, reward our employees and maximise long term value for all shareholders."

NortonLifeLock said it was considering a cash and shares bid for Avast. No price was given, but the Wall Street Journal reported that Avast could fetch around $8bn (£5.8bn). Shares in Avast surged 13% on the news to reach the speculative deal price. 

Avast shares surged on news of the deal talks. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK
Avast shares surged on news of the deal talks. Photo: Yahoo Finance UK

Both sides said a bid was not certain and a deal could not be guaranteed.

"Avast’s shares have been on a broadly upwards but still bumpy path since its own listing in 2018," said Danni Hewson, a financial analyst at stockbroker AJ Bell. "Recent weakness in the share price may have alerted its rival Norton to the possibility of a tie-up and its approach continues the current wave of foreign M&A interest in British firms.

“Whether the competition authorities, which have already gone after Norton over its auto-renewal practices might look at any combination between Norton and Avast, and the impact it has on consumers, remains to be seen.”

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