Gemalto Takes on Hacking With $890 Million SafeNet Deal

Aug 08, 2014 11:57 am ET

(Updates with closing share price in fifth paragraph.)

Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Gemalto NV, a developer of software and chips that make transactions more secure, agreed to buy data-protection company SafeNet Inc. for $890 million in cash to bolster its offerings against threats such as hacking.

The acquisition, from private-equity firm Vector Capital, will be funded with existing cash reserves and debt, Amsterdam- based Gemalto said today in a statement. The company expects to complete the deal in the fourth quarter.

High-profile hacking incidents are prompting companies and consumers to boost data protection in systems ranging from online banking services to social networks. Gemalto, the inventor of the smart-card chip, has been seeking to cater to the likes of Facebook Inc. after selling authentication devices and security software to banks, governments, and companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Boeing Co.

“There’s more and more sensitivity on protecting data from being hacked and, if it’s stolen, to make it unusable,” Chief Executive Officer Olivier Piou said in a phone interview. “It’s the right time to make this acquisition.”

Gemalto shares rose 4.7 percent to 72.50 euros in Amsterdam trading, the biggest advance since January, paring the decline to 9.4 percent this year.

Hacking Growth

Incidents of hacking and security breaches have multiplied, affecting companies from EBay Inc. to Snapchat Inc., since a massive data breach at Target Corp. last year led to the ousting of the company’s CEO and spurred concern among executives about repeating the retailer’s mistake. A U.S. security company this week said a gang of hackers in Russia had amassed 1.2 billion sets of looted user names and passwords.

Facebook this week said it’s acquiring PrivateCore, a startup that makes software for protecting data, to strengthen the security of its systems.

Belcamp, Maryland-based SafeNet, whose customers include Bank of America Corp., Starbucks Corp. and Netflix Inc., has forecast revenue of $370 million and profit from operations of $51 million for this year. Gemalto expects to surpass its 2017 target for 600 million euros ($801 million) in profit from operations by about 10 percent because of the transaction, the company said.

More Acquisitions

Gemalto has the means to do more deals after SafeNet, CEO Piou said. In May, the company said it acquired two U.S.-based units of Cardiff Holdings to help customize payment cards for local financial institutions.

Deals have heated up around Gemalto, in a fragmented global money-transfer and payments market. Payment terminals maker Ingenico Group last month said it’s in exclusive talks to acquire online payment-service provider GlobalCollect for 820 million euros. Worldline SA, an Atos unit that sold shares in an initial public offering in June, said it’s seeking acquisitions for as much as 1 billion euros.

“There are plenty of interesting companies that would accelerate our growth, but we’re very patient and we won’t buy them at any cost,” Piou said. “We’re looking for a happy marriage -- it’s the case with SafeNet.”