Intel's planned acquisition of security vendor McAfee sparked widespread speculation that other security players are also potential acquisition targets. Now, a new report from a leading stock analyst is adding more grist to the rumor mill, causing a small run-up in McAfee competitor Symantec's stock price and a new round of reports that Symantec's most likely suitor is none other than longtime Intel partner Microsoft.

On Wednesday, several investor publications, including Barron's Tech Trader Daily and TheStreet led with the rumor that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) may be courting Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC), citing investor boards across the Internet.

For many rumormongers, a research note issued by Jefferies & Company analyst Katherine Egbert lent even more credence to a likely takeover of Symantec.


"We doubt a near-term sale is on tap, but we do sense some shareholder angst with the current state of Symantec," Egbert wrote in her note.

The antivirus firm's stock jumped Wednesday by some 4.37 percent to close at $14.58, up $0.61 for the day. The rush to buy Symantec stock, however, didn't last long. Near the end of the trading day on Thursday, the company's stock was up $0.06 to $14.64, a gain of only 0.45 percent.

In any event, a purchase of Symantec could be potentially costly: The stock closed Thursday with a market capitalization of $11.55 billion.

Such a transaction would even dwarf Intel's $7.7 billion purchase of McAfee (NYSE: MFE), announced in late August and set to close by the end of the year. Still, that deal may have whetted investors' thirst for more such purchases, with Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) saying that it sees a great deal of synergy ahead in wedding McAfee security technology to its own chips.

For its part, Microsoft discounted the latest rumors.

"Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

Symantec spokespeople did not return a request for comment by press time.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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