Avast’s £6bn cybersecurity merger given provisional approval

The £6 billion merger between British cybersecurity company Avast and US rival NortonLifeLock has been provisionally given the green light by the UK competition watchdog.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it does not believe the tie-up raises competition concerns in the UK following an in-depth merger launched in March.

The CMA said while concerns were first raised in its initial probe, more detailed analysis of the deal found that the merging businesses face “significant competition” from the likes of main rival McAfee and a range of other smaller suppliers.

It added that security applications provided by Microsoft – the owner of the Windows operating system – have become increasingly important alternatives for consumers, with the group now improving its free built-in security app so that protection “is as good as many of the products offered by specialist suppliers”.

Recently launched apps by Microsoft also see its cyber safety offering more closely match those of the merging businesses, according to the CMA.

The CMA has set a deadline of August 24 for responses to its provisional decision, with a final report due by September 8.

Kirstin Baker, chair of the CMA inquiry group, said: “Millions of people across the UK rely on cyber safety services to keep them safe online.

“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.

“As such, we have provisionally concluded that the deal can go ahead.”

NortonLifeLock said it welcomed the initial decision, and “intends to continue to work with the CMA and with Avast to enable the CMA’s final report to be issued as soon as practicable”.

It hopes to be able to complete the deal by September 12.

The merger was first announced in August last year, pending approvals from regulators.

It was supposed to be completed in March but has been held up by investigations in the UK and Spain.

NortonLifeLock and Avast both offer cyber safety software to consumers under a variety of different brands.

Products include antivirus software, also known as endpoint security software, privacy software, such as VPNs, and identity protection software.

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