Apple's AuthenTec Deal: A Shot At Samsung? (Update 1)

Updated from 8:50 a.m. EST to include analyst comments in the sixth and seventh paragraphs.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) has fired a shot right at Samsung in the smartphone wars, clinching a deal to buy AuthenTec ( AUTH) for a massive 60% premium, at $8 per share.

AuthenTec makes mobile and network security solutions, and recently signed a deal with Samsung to be featured in its new Android smartphone and tablets.

The 60% premium signals to investors that Apple's serious about its war with Samsung, as it tries to lock down more of the component supply chain. The ironic part of this is that Samsung is also a key supplier to Apple for both the iPhone and iPad.

There have been no statements from either company yet, save for an SEC filing before market open.

One has to wonder whether this could be a precursor for Apple's move into digital wallets, given AuthenTec's specialty.

Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um speculates this might be the case,. "We believe this deal signals the potential for fingerprint sensors in upcoming Apple devices, which not only increases device security, but could also be a mechanism to assure security needed to execute mobile payments on iPhones. We see this as likely one of the primary reasons for the acquisition," Um wrote in a note to clients. He rates Apple shares "outperform" with a target range of $640-$660.

A recent analyst note from July also hinted at this. Craig Hallum analyst Richard Shannon, who covered AuthenTec, noted that the company was "transforming into a security solutions provider for mobile payments and the delivery of premium mobile content." He rates AuthenTec "buy" with a $6 price target.

Apple has not yet responded to TheStreet's request for comment on this story.

AuthenTec shares are soaring in early Friday trading, up 62.72% to $8.25, while Apple is off 0.36% to $572.79.

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-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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