Symantec: Will the Turnaround Continue?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. ( TheStreet -- Software maker Symantec ( SYMC ) looks set to provide investors with further evidence that its problems are disappearing when it reports third-quarter results after market close on Wednesday.

After struggling with execution issues, the company beat Wall Street's estimates last quarter and offered healthy guidance.
Software maker Symantec reports its third-quarter results after market close.

Symantec, which competes with McAfee ( MFE) and Microsoft ( MSFT) is also expected to reap the benefits of an increasingly robust IT spending environment.

Deutsche Bank, for example, recently upgraded Symantec from hold to buy on improving sales and Citigroup also upgraded the firm.

"We anticipate respectable fiscal third-quarter results as we believe the company benefited from the pending acquisition of McAfee by Intel ( INTC) , residual strength in consumer PC shipments, and a more typical fourth-quarter budget flush in enterprise," added Brad Zelnick, an analyst at Macquarie Securities, in a recent note. "Most indications imply an improving environment and improved execution, making fiscal third-quarter expectations achievable."

Similar to the second quarter, however, Symantec's profit is expected to fall year-over-year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect Symantec to report revenue of $1.58 billion and earnings of 33 cents a share, compared to $1.55 billion and earnings of 40 cents a share in the same period last year.

Nonetheless, IT spending is likely to be the key theme of the Symantec conference call. Symantec itself noted strength in both its enterprise and government businesses during the second quarter, and there are signs that this trend could continue. Recent quarterly numbers from IBM ( IBM), Intel ( INTC) and Juniper ( JNPR), for example, have painted a rosy picture of corporate IT expenditure. EMC ( EMC) also noted a significant hike in revenue from its RSA security division earlier this week.

Symantec CEO Enrique Salem may also face questions on last year's rumor that the firm was coming under pressure to separate its security and storage businesses.

Todd Weller, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, says that Symantec has demonstrated little synergy between its security and storage operations, despite spending $13.5 billion to acquire storage management specialist Veritas in 2005

Weller, however, thinks that a major split is unlikely. "We believe it is unlikely that Symantec will look to completely separate the two businesses though we believe there is the potential that the firm could look to divest certain areas of its storage business, such as the storage management segment of the business," he said, in a recent note.

Symantec shares slipped 13 cents, or 0.73%, to $17.69 on Wednesday as the Nasdaq crept up 0.76%.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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