Sophos sells majority share to private equity firm

Security stalwart Sophos is to have its majority bought out by private equity firm Apax Partners, which has agreed to splash out $580 million for a 70 percent stake in the firm. TA Associates, a minority shareholder in Sophos since 2002, will sell its full interest to Apax.

Sophos has steadily built up its reputation since its conception in 1985, in Abingdon, Old Blighty, to amass an estimated worth of roughly $830 million. It plans to use the cash it acquires from Apax to further invest, says Steve Munford, CEO. Steve says the deal will allow for co-founders and early investors to cash in their holdings in the company.

The company had been seeking a public offering back in 2007 but changed its mind when the market shrivelled somewhat. However, it did well to hold on to its hat, having brought in excess of $260 million revenue and $55 million free cash in its fiscal year 2010, ended this March, alone.

High-profile Sophos customers include Cisco, Marks and Spencer, Heinz and Harvard University, relying on its security suites to keep an eye on spyware, viruses, network access control, disk encryption and data leak prevention. Sophos claims to have over 100 million users worldwide.

Salim Nathoo, partner in Tech & Telecoms at Apax Partners, said in a statement: “We identified the security software space as an attractive investment area for us given its rapid growth driven by increasing malware threats and high barriers to entry. Sophos is a very strong platform and is gaining market share.”

Other Apax Partners tech and telecom investments include learning technology manufacturer Promethean World, European telecoms business Weather Investments and Inmarsat and Intelsat, both satellite operators.