In an ongoing flurry of cybersecurity deals, investors around the world have been committing more and more money to businesses working to keep hackers out of secure systems. With its latest investment, Blackstone asks: What about the companies trying to let them in?
The firm has entered serious talks to acquire a 40% stake in NSO Group for $400 million, according to Israel’s Calcalist newspaper, in a deal that would value the business at $1 billion. NSO is an Israeli maker of spyware for mobile systems. Its most famous product is Pegasus, a piece of spyware that entered the public spotlight last month after reports that it was allegedly deployed by the Mexican government to spy on lawyers, journalists and activists investigating the infamous disappearance of 43 students in the country in 2014.
NSO sells its spyware to governments on the condition it be used only to monitor terrorists and other criminal groups. But as with any weapon, the manufacturer’s intent is only part of the equation.
The company is already backed by Francisco Partners, which acquired NSO for a reported $120 million in 2014. It’s believed the firm will retain a stake, although Francisco Partners will reportedly sell another 10% of NSO to ClearSky in addition to offloading a 40% interest to Blackstone.
In a separate deal, Blackstone has agreed to acquire Clarion Events from Providence Equity Partners, with City A.M. reporting a price of around £600 million. Based in the UK, Clarion is a manager and organizer of large one-off events (such as trade shows) that Providence has backed since 2015, when it bought the business for a reported £200 million.
The transaction takes place in a European media & information services sector that continues to boom. Last year, firms completed 133 investments in the space, according to the PitchBook Platform, the highest total in the past 10 years.
PitchBook subscribers can learn more about media & information services deals in Europe.
Article by Kevin Dowd, PitchBook