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) --



is snapping at the heels of


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in the race to be the world's largest security software company, according to analyst firm Jefferies & Company, which says that the company could offer upside to investors.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm, which was one of TheStreet's top

tech picks

for 2009, is enjoying a

good year

. McAfee recently posted strong

second-quarter results

, boosted by sales to both consumers and corporations.

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"McAfee is set to surpass Symantec as the largest enterprise security provider, perhaps as soon as this quarter," wrote Jefferies analyst Katherine Egbert, in a note released Tuesday. "With a macro recovery possibly on the way, McAfee seems well-positioned for the second half of the year."

The analyst, who reiterated her McAfee "Buy" rating and $49 price target, explained that the firm is also in the last month of an 18-month deal to sell its software on


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"The October renewal seems to be a two horse race between McAfee and Symantec," she wrote. "

But we expect McAfee to retain the contract, given the longstanding relationship, potential for an appliance partnership down the road, and McAfee's rich history of Dell conversion rates."

Jefferies & Company estimates that Dell accounts for approximately 6% of McAfee's total revenue and says that the security company may be pushing for a similar deal with


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, where Symantec is the incumbent.

During its recent second-quarter conference call, McAfee said 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.

McAfee's stock, which is currently trading at a little under $42, has grown steadily the last six months, rising around 50%.

With cybercrime attacks becoming ever

more sophisticated

, Symantec recently overhauled its own

security software

, and the major vendors have all been working hard to clamp down on previously unknown viruses and worms, known as "zero day attacks."

Jefferies & Company's Egbert, who has recently spent time on the road with McAfee's management, said that the firm's sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and federal government are showing strength.

"North America also seems to be showing signs of improvement, with a larger funnel of deals, and a larger number of 8-figure deals," she wrote. "The increased deal size stems from the upsell of multiple products, not longer contracts."

Neither McAfee nor Dell has yet responded to


's request for comment on this story.

--Written by James Rogers in New York