"Don't let the door hit you in the glutes!"
That's the send-off Mr. Market gave to former Symantec (Nasdaq: SYMC ) CEO Enrique Salem. Symantec's first-quarter report on Wednesday morning didn't even mention his name. Instead, successor Steve Bennett was simply presented as chairman, president, and CEO. That's a total of two new titles for the sitting chairman of the board. The change in leadership was shunted off into a totally separate press release.
Bennett said that the board's decision reflected a need for new thinking, and not any particular misdeed from Mr. Salem. I'll buy that for a dollar, considering that the first quarter's performance certainly wasn't a fireable offense. The security software specialist saw $0.43 of non-GAAP earnings per share on $1.7 billion in sales, in both cases ahead of Wall Street expectations. However, the real damage was done awhile back -- Symantec posted some pretty weak guidance for this quarter, and the final results actually fell short of what analysts were hoping to see before slashing their estimates.
Shares jumped as much as 17.5% on the combined news but have still lost value in 2012. That's in sharp contrast to sector rivals VASCO Data Security (Nasdaq: VDSI ) , Sourcefire (Nasdaq: FIRE ) , and CA, all of which have beaten the market this year.
Bennett brings a 23-year career at General Electric (NYSE: GE ) plus a widely celebrated seven-year stint as CEO of Intuit (Nasdaq: INTU ) to the table. Intuit's revenues tripled under his reign as the company expanded into new markets.
Judging by the anemic 1% top-line growth, Symantec needs a dose of that revenue-boosting magic. It's not clear exactly how Bennett plans to do that right now, but he's aware of the challenges ahead. "Symantec's assets are strong and yet the company is underperforming against the opportunity," he said in a prepared statement. Add Symantec to your Foolish watchlist and keep an eye on this space. The company could look very different a year from now.
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