VeriSign May Sell Some Operations

[qi:074] Memo to private equity investors: Get your checkbooks ready, for VeriSign (VRSN) might have some businesses to put on the block.

VeriSign, the Mountain View, Calif.-based domain name registry manager, is in the middle of a major restructuring under the aegis of its new chief executive, William Roper Jr., who replaced Stratton Sclavos back in May. The company, like many others, also recently had to restate several years worth of results following a review of its historical stock option grants practices.

We’ve gotten hold of an internal email showing that Roper is planning to undo some of the expansion moves initiated by Sclavos and instead focus the company on profitability and growth. Sclavos’ regime had been all about growing revenues; to that end VeriSign diversified into many different areas — including mobile gaming, via their acquisition of Jamster.

On August 7, we submitted our 2008 Business Strategy to the Board of Directors for review, and it was approved. This strategy, the development of which began earlier this year as part of Project ONE, will among other things enable us to focus on our core strengths in DNS and SSL, as well as three select areas of growth opportunity: VeriSign Identity Protection (VIP), Messaging, and our Content Delivery Network (CDN). As I’ve said before, focus requires that we concentrate on doing a few things exceptionally well — and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

After talking to some well-placed sources, we have learned that the DNS and SSL businesses are cash cows that don’t need much of a sales team effort and continue to be highly profitable. They provide a stable foundation for VeriSign, which is why the company continues to keep them around.

In addition, VeriSign is experiencing rapid growth in its SMS-based services — it’s the SMS polling infrastructure provider, for some of the hit reality shows.

Roper Jr. has been telling Wall Street lately that he’s ready to get rid of VeriSign’s telecom operations, especially the businesses related to billing and payment. The company’s also exiting the managed security service business and its RFID-related operations. And it’s shedding businesses including Moreover Technologies and, both of which it acquired in 2005. It is not clear who the buyers will be, but they are up for grabs our sources say.

Selling these business, according to Pacific Crest Securities analyst Rob Owens, could bring in some $1 billion in cash, which would allow the company to invest in the cash-intensive but fast growing CDN business.

Of course, it could also use some of that cash to improve its reputation of being a Web bully.

  • Category: Web