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NortonLifeLock-Avast Merger Gets OK From UK Regulators After Initial Reluctance

Jay Fitzgerald

The U.K.‘s Competition and Markets Authority says recent security moves by Microsoft and others eased fears the $8 billion-plus merger would harm consumers.

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NortonLifeLock and Avast can thank Microsoft for riding to the rescue of their proposed $8 billion-plus merger that only recently looked to be in regulatory peril.

The U.K.‘s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has given ‘provisional’ approval to the merger, even though agency officials warned in March that they had competition concerns about Tempe, Ariz.-based NortonLifeLock taking over the Prague, Czech Republic-based Avast, whose stock is listed in the U.K, according to reports by Reuters and other media outlets.

What’s changed since March? Research showing stronger-than-thought competition from other security rivals, both big and small, including McAfee, the British agency said. Most importantly, Microsoft has recently been beefing up its consumer and business security via its Defender suite of security products.

Microsoft “holds a unique position in the market as the owner of the Windows operating system” and its recent security moves “bring its cyber safety offering closer to those of the merging businesses and are likely to further strengthen Microsoft as a competitor going forward,” the CMA said in its statement.

“The CMA has now provisionally concluded that the deal does not raise competition concerns in the U.K.,” its statement says.

“The CMA’s investigation has found that the supply of cyber safety software to consumers is rapidly evolving. Providers of both paid-for and free services are continually developing and improving their products over time to meet different and changing customer needs.”

The bottom line, unless British regulators have another change of heart: the NortonLifeLock-Avast deal appears to have overcome one of its last regulatory challenges. U.S. and German anti-trust officials have already given thumbs up to the transaction.

In the U.K., Avast’s shares skyrocketed by more than 40 percent after the CMA announcement. NortonLifeLock’s shares jumped a more modest 7 percent.

With its U.S. headquarters located in Redwood City, Calif., Avast provides both consumer and business cybersecurity, working with indirect channel partners to deliver endpoint and cloud-based network security.

Meanwhile, NortonLifeLock, which was created in 2019 as a spin-off from Symantec after Symantec’s enterprise security business was acquired by Broadcom, is a specialist in consumer-focused cybersecurity.

The merger, first announced a year ago, was seen as creating a global consumer security powerhouse.

But just four months ago, it looked like there might not be a deal, based on the comments of David Stewart, CMA’s executive director, who expressed concern the merger would end up harming consumers, according to media reports.

Further research basically allayed those fears, CMA said on Wednesday.

 

 

Jay Fitzgerald

Jay Fitzgerald is a senior editor covering cybersecurity for CRN. Jay previously freelanced for the Boston Globe, Boston Business Journal, Boston magazine, Banker & Tradesman, MassterList.com, Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, the National Bureau of Economic Research and other entities. He can be reached at jfitzgerald@thechannelcompany.com.

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