Avast shares hit record high after $8.6 billion NortonLifeLock deal gets UK nod

(Reuters) -NortonLifeLock’s $8.6 billion purchase of rival Avast won provisional clearance from Britain on Wednesday, overcoming the final hurdle to creating a consumer security software giant and sending Avast shares to an all-time high.

Shares in Avast rose as much as 43% to 683.2 pence and U.S-listed NortonLifeLock’s shares were up 3% before the bell, after the firms were forced to delay the deal’s closing date pending regulatory approvals.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched a deeper investigation into the deal earlier this year, noting it could harm competition and lead to British customers getting a worse deal when looking for security software.

The deal, which would combine NortonLifeLock’s strength in identity theft protection and Avast’s privacy credentials, has already received the green light in the United States, Spain and Germany.

Following a more detailed Phase 2 investigation, the CMA said it had concluded that the deal does not raise competition concerns in the UK.

It noted that the merged company will face significant competition from McAfee and other smaller players while software titan Microsoft Corp will be strengthened as a competitor.

Microsoft has ramped up its free built-in security feature, which the CMA noted offers protection which is as good as many of the products offered by specialist firms.

The watchdog said it was open to responses from interested parties to its provisional findings till August 24, before issuing its final report due by September 8.

Based on this timeline, NortonLifeLock said on Wednesday it expects to close the deal by early next month.

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Avast said it had no comment at present.

“After gathering further information from the companies involved and other industry players, we are currently satisfied that this deal won’t worsen the options available to consumers,” CMA’s inquiry group chair Kirstin Baker said.

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips,Jason Neely and Elaine Hardcastle)