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McAfee Catches Wall Street's Interest

Security software specialist McAfee's shares rise on strong second-quarter results.



) -- Security software specialist



is living up to its billing as one of


top tech picks

for 2009, busting out good

second-quarter numbers

late Thursday.

Boosted by sales to both consumers and corporations, McAfee beat Wall Street's revenue and profit estimates, increasing the pressure on competitors such as


(SYMC) - Get Report



(MSFT) - Get Report

. Specifically, McAfee's corporate sales increased 21% year over year to $291 million, and consumer revenue grew 13% to $177 million.

Investors responded warmly to the news, pushing the company's shares up $2.24, or 5.3%, to $44.80 in Friday trading.

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The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm also said during a conference call last Thursday that it is winning share from its rivals. McAfee won 28 deals worth more than $1 million in the quarter, according to CEO Dave DeWalt, up from 21 in the year ago-quarter and 18 in the first quarter of 2009. Some 83 companies within the Fortune 100 currently use McAfee software, he added.

In contrast, Symantec saw its

sales dip

when it reported its first-quarter results earlier this week, missing analysts' estimates.

"It appears McAfee's strong product portfolio is resonating well across geographies despite stiff macro headwinds and competitive pressures," wrote Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, in a note released Friday.

The analyst, who raised his McAfee price target from $38 to $41, also expects good things from McAfee's $140 million acquisition of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) specialist

MX Logic

, which was announced Thursday. The privately held firm provides services such as managed email, Web filtering and security services, and the deal is expected to close in September.

"Strategically speaking, we believe MX Logic is a good product set for McAfee to have under its belt," wrote Ives. "It will extend the company's cloud-based services and further help in penetrating small to mid-sized customers."

Another analyst agrees that MX Logic bolsters McAfee's strategic position.


This acquisition represents an answer to Symantec's


acquisition and provides McAfee with SaaS capabilities," wrote Todd Weller, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, raising his McAfee price target from $48 to $51. "We continue to look for McAfee to deliver a good balance of solid top line growth and margin expansion yielding solid earnings per share growth."

Despite ongoing


in the broader tech market, McAfee seems to offer plenty of upside to investors.

The firm set a bullish tone for the third quarter, with both revenue and earnings guidance at the high end of analysts' estimates. McAfee also reported a second-quarter operating margin of 26.7%, it highest in more than three years, and above the company's own guidance.

"Expanding operating margins, added with deal momentum, makes us believe that McAfee is poised to accelerate growth in the second half of 2009," wrote Katherine Egbert, an analyst at Jefferies & Company, in a note released Friday. "We think management is providing a conservative outlook and could likely exceed expectations."

McAfee expects third-quarter revenue between $475 million and $495 million, significantly more upbeat than Wall Street's estimate of $477.77 million. Excluding items, McAfee forecast earnings between 58 cents a share and 62 cents a share, in line with Wall Street's projection of 59 cents a share.