Six years after Intel (INTC) - Get Report bought security software/services provider McAfee for $7.7 billion, the Financial Times reports that Intel is talking to bankers about options for the business, now known as Intel Security, including a possible sale.
Private equity firms, which have been avidly snapping up enterprise tech companies over the last couple of years, are viewed are potential suitors.
The report shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Two months ago, when CEO Brian Krzanich laid out a 5-part strategy for "transforming Intel from a PC company to a company that powers the cloud and billions of smart, connected computing devices," he made no mention of Intel Security. Moreover, Krzanich's remarks came shortly after Intel announced it's laying off 12,000 workers and is planning to exit some markets following a company-wide product review. The company is clearly looking to streamline.
In addition, despite McAfee's relationships with PC manufacturers that are among Intel's biggest clients, owning a major consumer and enterprise security software firm has been a questionable fit for a chip giant with a famously engineer-driven culture. McAfee/Intel Security quickly went from being an interesting way to lower Intel's PC CPU dependence and take part in a growing enterprise security IT market to a distraction.
The business did manage to grow sales 12% annually in Q1 to $537 million, but that was after sales fell 2% in 2015 to $2.08 billion.
Moreover, unloading McAfee would shore up a balance sheet that has been weakened by the debt Intel has taken on to finance buybacks and its $16.7 billion purchase of Altera. Intel had $25.4 billion in debt at the end of the first quarter to go with $15.1 billion in cash -- all but $1.1 billion of that cash was offshore, however.
Given the sales pressures Intel Security has seen, and the fact it's dealing with a long list of tough competitors, chances are Intel won't get a sale price on par with the $7.7 billion it paid for McAfee. All the same, unloading the business will strengthen Intel financially and let management focus on the company's chip operations, some of which are facing large challenges of their own.
Shares of Intel were trading down 2.7% to 30.71 in early afternoon trading on Monday amid general market declines following the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU.