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Should I Do It? Symantec Bar Set Low

Symantec (SYMC), best known for its Norton antivirus software, has seen its shares drop like a stone in 2007.

At Tuesday's closing price of $17.62, the stock is already down a quick 15.5% for the new year, as management hit investors with a disappointing fiscal third quarter (ended December) report Jan. 24.

The company also said Monday that it's buying systems management software producer Altiris (ATRS) for $1.03 billion. While Symantec believes the purchase will be slightly accretive to fiscal 2008 (ending March) earnings, investors aren't soon to forget that the stock is down 19.4% since the company paid $10.2 billion for Veritas Software (VRTS) in 2005.

Symantec is currently on track to see profits decline in fiscal 2007 for the first time in five years, to 96 cents a share. Even so, at 18.4 times full-year earnings, the company trades at a 43% discount to its historical average and a 14% discount to top competitor McAfee (MFE).

With that in mind, I'm here to answer investors' questions: Should I do it? Has Symantec dug itself a new hole with this acquisition, or has the stock already sold off too much?

The consumer security business still accounts for 30% of the company's business and grew 24% year over year in the latest quarter. But to keep up with declining storage sales, Symantec said last week that it will cut 5% of its workforce and reduce annual expenses by $200 million. Management also pledged to buy back $1 billion (57 million shares) of its stock over time. Even after the Altiris purchase, Symantec still has $2.2 billion ($2.30 a share) of cash on the balance sheet.

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