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By Brenon Daly

Overall M&A is nowhere near the level it was in the boom days of 2007, but there is one sector where deal makers are actually more active than ever: IT security. So far this year, we’ve tallied 45 security acquisitions with an aggregate deal value of some $5.4bn. That is substantially higher than the same period in the previous two years, when the recession knocked M&A into a tailspin.

This year’s level of security M&A is even higher than the $3.7bn spent on 44 deals that we recorded in the same period in 2007, which was a record year for tech acquisitions. The activity in the sector stands out even more when we consider that, overall, deal makers have spent a total of just $80bn on transactions across all sectors so far this year – just one-third the level of spending at this point in 2007.

Perhaps the single biggest reason for the jump in spending so far this year has been the return to the market of Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC). On its own, Big Yellow accounts for about one-third of the total shopping bill in the sector, having announced four deals valued at nearly $1.7bn in 2010. Included in that quartet of purchases is the pick-up of the identity and authentication business from VeriSign, which was Symantec’s largest single transaction since its misguided purchase of storage company Veritas Software in December 2004. It also announced a pair of deals for encryption vendors in a single day in April.

The other security deal this year we’d highlight is the planned take-private of SonicWALL. With an equity value of $717m, that’s the largest security LBO we’ve seen in some time. (For comparison, a year ago, the same buyout shop, Thoma Bravo, took digital identity firm Entrust private in a deal valued at just $124m.) Add in other smaller deals by McAfee (MFE), EMC (NYSE:EMC), Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) and Check Point Software (NASDAQ:CHKP), and the security M&A market has been busy this year. Given the strength of the sector and the broad base of buyers, we expect activity to remain brisk for the rest of 2010.

Security M&A

Period Deal volume Deal value
Jan. 1 – June 14, 2010 45 $5.4bn
Jan. 1 – June 14, 2009 33 $381m
Jan. 1 – June 14, 2008 35 $648m
Jan. 1 – June 14, 2007 44 $3.7bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

Source: Security Software: Securing a Busy Time for M&A