Symantec cuts jobs, Asia impact unknown

Unspecified number of employees are being let go as the security software maker works to cut its cost structure by US$200 million.

Symantec this week started sending out pink slips to employees across the company as part of a cost reduction effort, but it is not known if--and how many--staff in the Asia-Pacific region are affected.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based security and database management software maker in January set a goal to reduce its cost structure by US$200 million. As part of that plan, an unspecified number of employees are now being let go, Melissa Martin, a Symantec spokeswoman, said Thursday.

"We're reducing [our] head count cost by 5 percent," Martin said. She declined to say how many employees would be affected by the layoffs. Symantec employs about 17,500 people worldwide.

When contacted by ZDNet Asia, Symantec's Asia-Pacific office declined to comment if staff here have been affected.

After a disappointing quarter for its enterprise business, Symantec in January said it would cut costs by US$200 million to align its expenses with its revenue expectations.

To achieve that target, the company said it would trim its workforce, reduce new hires, consolidate facilities and cut spending on contractors, consulting and travel.

Symantec's shares were trading at US$16.51, off slightly from the US$16.55 opening price on the Nasdaq exchange. The stock fell sharply in mid-January after Symantec warned that results for the three month-period, ending December 29, would be lower than forecast. For the quarter, Symantec reported net income of US$114 million on US$1.31 billion in revenue.

Commenting on the news, Michael Warrilow, director of analyst consulting company Hydrasight, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview: "Firstly, Symantec is clearly a company in transition.

"[It is] trying to stay ahead of Microsoft, which is a good--and necessary--strategy. We need to keep that in mind, plus, the fact that Symantec is not going to go away anytime soon."

Warrilow said that with its more than 25 acquisitions in recent years, "Symantec clearly has many duplicated personnel and that does justify some of the workforce reduction". Its most recent buys in the last three years include Altiris, Veritas Software, IMlogic, BindView Development, Brightmail, Liric, Sygate Technologies, Turntide and WholeSecurity.

"In addition to cost cutting, Symantec must focus on keeping its partners happy," Warrilow said. "Symantec must also continue to add incremental value by continuing to improve the user experience--and administration--of its products. This is the only viable long-term strategy for competing with Microsoft and it will also help to maintain the loyalty of partners and customers."

The analyst predicted that "Symantec will continue to evolve through 2010".

"It is staking its future on software for endpoint management, which is desktop security and administration, data center as well as storage management and e-mail security and archiving for both small and large enterprises," said Warrilow. "These requirements are unlikely to disappear anytime soon."

Joris Evers of CNET reported from San Francisco.