29 November 2022

The third biggest transaction in Czech M&A history

Last summer, a well-known Czech multinational cybersecurity software company Avast announced its merger with the American software company NortonLifeLock Inc. According to Reuters, the deal was valued at $8.6 billion, which made it the third biggest transaction in Czech M&A history. The new company will become one of the most prominent security software vendors. On 2 September, the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) approved the merger a month after provisionally greenlighting the deal.

Avast and Norton - main image

Avast develops computer security software, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. The company became famous because of its freemium antivirus products. The monthly active users of Avast products reached 435 million in 2021. Avast has the second largest market share among anti-malware application vendors worldwide. At the same time, Norton is a Fortune 500 company and a member of the S&P 500 stock-market index. The deal between these two giant tech companies received much attention, mainly because of its size. In M&A terminology, such deals can be called "megamergers" and may be perceived as dangerous for the industry because the field becomes less competitive. Another concern has been raised by Neil Rubenking, the lead analyst of PC Magazine. In the merger's documentation, he discovered an interesting figure that describes a 25% reduction in staff numbers. Such companies as Avast and Norton need to work on malware development continuously. And these companies need a research team who are spotting malware innovations. Rubenking believes that the number of malware inventions would be significantly reduced if fewer researchers were working on a single code base. At the same time, it may just be a simple rearrangement. However, it can also suggest that fewer developers are looking for novel virus defenses, and by this making customers less secure.

From another perspective, the freemium model of Avast cybersecurity software can be in danger. It was always highly profitable for Avast to provide freemium antivirus with the idea that a part of all free users can finally be convinced to for a premium service. Although, there is always a risk that such mergers as Norton with Avast lead to higher customer prices. Moreover, the lack of competition can result in more functionality being reserved for paying customers. Only 16.5 million out of Avast's 435 million users pay a subscription fee, while Norton is primarily a paid-for service. However, the newly formed company is improbable to expect free users to start paying suddenly. More precisely, the value of the Avast and Norton merger is founded mainly on its free user base, and the new business is unlikely to take any actions that would result in a decline in those numbers.

When cyber security is crucial for both consumers and organizations, the merger should result in antivirus solutions incorporating the advantages of Avast's focus on privacy and NortonLifeLock's expertise in identity.