Avast doubles down on privacy after Jumpshot furore

LONDON (Reuters) - Cybersecurity firm Avast AVST.L said it would increase its focus on privacy, with growth driven by a new product in the coming months, as it puts the furore about its Jumpshot data analytics business behind it.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Avast Software company is seen at its headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, April 12, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Avast decided to close Jumpshot last month after reports said it was collecting data about what many of its users were doing online and offering to sell the information to clients.

Chief Executive Ondrej Vlcek said on Wednesday the Jumpshot privacy scandal had a temporary and limited impact, as the company reported a 7.9% rise in 2019 adjusted core earnings of $483 million, in line with market expectations.

Vlcek said there was a “slight increase” in product un-installs in the week the news broke but the trend was now back to normal. “There was some limited impact but it has been constrained,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.

Shares in Avast, which fell to a three-month low in January on the fall-out from Jumpshot, were up 3.6% at 428 pence in morning deals.

Vlcek said the company performed well operationally last year, with the number of paying customers for its desktop products increasing 3.5% to 12.62 million and average revenue per customer rising 3,6% to $51.02.

Growth was driven from the cross-selling of privacy products such as VPN (virtual private networks) and AntiTrack, he said, and performance products such as Cleanup and Driver Updater.

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“We will be releasing a new privacy orientated product in the first half of this year to complement our already successful VPN and AntiTrack products,” he said.

“We are doubling down on that category in our product strategy.”

He said the company expected “healthy growth” in 2020, with organic revenue set to increase by a mid-single digit, with a stable core earnings margin.

The London-listed company said it would incur an exceptional cost of $15-25 million for shutting down Jumpshot, in line with guidance given last month.

Editing by Sarah Young, editing by Louise Heavens