* Bennett second CEO to be fired by Symantec in less than
* Board member Michael Brown to take over as interim CEO
* Reaffirms fourth-quarter outlook
* Shares fall 10 pct in extended trading
(Adds details, analysts' comments)
By Soham Chatterjee
March 20 Antivirus and security software
provider Symantec Corp fired Chief Executive Steve
Bennett on Thursday, the second time it has sacked its top
executive in less than two years, as the company struggles to
revive growth amid eroding PC sales.
Shares of the company, known for its Norton antivirus
software, fell 10 percent in extended trading.
Symantec said it appointed board member Michael Brown as
interim president and CEO.
The decision to let go of Bennett was "the result of an
ongoing deliberative process and not precipitated by any event
or impropriety," the company said.
"It's a jaw-dropping move, especially because Bennett was
key to the company's turnaround. I view this as a major step
back ...," FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said.
Forrester Research analyst Rick Holland said Symantec had
been losing market share to nimbler network security software
makers such as FireEye Inc, Palo Alto Networks Inc
and Checkpoint Systems Inc.
Symantec said it was committed to its target of more than 5
percent organic growth and higher than 30 percent adjusted
operating margin by fiscal 2017.
However, BMO Capital analyst Joel Fishbein said it would be
difficult for Symantec to achieve 5 percent revenue growth
without mergers and acquisitions or divestiture due to a
continuing fall in its main PC security and storage businesses.
Symantec, whose security products usually come bundled with
PCs, reported in January a 5 percent decline in revenue for the
third quarter ended Dec. 27.
Bennett had said the fall in revenue was partly due to
changes in the structure of the company's sales team.
Symantec had been reorganizing its sales force to create
specialists for each product group instead of having everyone
Bennett, a former CEO of financial software maker Intuit
Corp, was appointed by President Obama to the National
Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee in July.
"Over the last decade, there have been a lot of head
scratching moves at Symantec from strategy to acquisitions and
you can just add this to the list," Ives said.
Symantec unexpectedly ousted CEO Enrique Salem in 2012 even
as a strategic review was under way to turn around the company.
A special committee of the board will immediately begin a
search for a permanent CEO with the help of an executive search
firm, the company said.
Symantec also reaffirmed its earnings and revenue forecast
for current quarter ending March 2014.
The Mountain View, California-based company's shares closed
at $20.90 on Thursday on the Nasdaq.
(Reporting by Soham Chatterjee in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti