Symantec to spend $1 billion a year on acquisitions

Symantec's COO says the company's M&A spree will continue for the foreseeable future.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Symantec's acquisition spree isn't stopping anytime soon.

The company plans to spend $1 billion a year on acquisitions for the foreseeable future, chief operating officer Enrique Salem said Thursday at Partner Engage 2008. That's about three to six acquisitions a year, he said.

Although the disruptive Veritas acquisition of 2005 has made some partners skittish about such deals, Salem's vision got a positive response at the conference.

"I'm excited about these aggressive stances that they're taking," said Kurt Klein, president of CMT, a Symantec partner in Santa Clara, Calif. "It's another weapon for me."

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The most recent Symantec acquisition came just last week, when the company purchased messaging security vendor MessageLabs for $695 million. There have been two additional Symantec acquisitions this year, SwapDrive and AppStream, and 25 in the past five years. Other major Symantec acquisitions in that time have included Altiris, Vontu and Brightmail.

"It will be interesting to see which ones they go after in the next few years," said Gary Cannon, president of Advanced Internet Security in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Most value-added resellers (VARs) like to have one product line that they can lead with on a customer call, and Symantec is making itself a more attractive option with each new acquisition, said Mike Shook, president and CEO of Consonus Technologies in Cary, N.C. The Symantec acquisitions also give partners more opportunities to increase the size of their deals by selling full solutions instead of point products, Shook said.

Mike Clesceri, vice president of marketing for Laurus Technologies in Itasca, Ill., said Symantec acquisitions also make things easier for clients.

"Our customers don't want to manage a lot of vendors," he said.

Clesceri also said that Symantec legitimizes the companies it acquires -- which makes those acquired products and services easier for partners to sell. VARs typically don't want to stake their reputations on niche technologies that have a lot of buzz but uncertain futures, but the Symantec name allays a lot of those concerns, Klein said.

"Being an evangelist is not the way to go," he said.

When Symantec combined its own channel program with that of Veritas, it created new processes and procedures that drew the ire of partners -- and Symantec didn't fully fix those problems until last year. Symantec has since learned from those mistakes, Klein said.

"Veritas wasn't the best integration out there, but they've seemingly done a better job with other [acquisitions]," he said.

Salem said today that Symantec now has processes in place for integrating acquired companies' channel programs and bringing their partners into the Symantec fold. During the Veritas acquisition, Symantec tried to keep the two partner programs separate for too long, Salem said.

"In an effort to not be disruptive, we said, 'Stay in your lanes,'" he said. "I don't know if that's the right answer."

Cannon said that before Symantec acquired Veritas, he could say his company was an expert in every Symantec product. Now, with every new acquisition, "we get further and further away from being able to ever make that statement again."

On the flip side, Cannon said every Symantec acquisition since then has filled a customer need, driving more sales and services opportunities for him and other partners. The key for solution providers is to take advantage of those opportunities without spreading business too thin, he said.

"As they continue to add more partners, we pick and choose which are best for us and our customers," he added.

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