Chief executive who built up Avast to retire

(Reuters) – Vince Steckler, the long-time chief executive of Avast who helped to develop the cyber security company, is to retire, overshadowing its first annual results since listing last May.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Avast Software company is seen at its headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, April 12, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Steckler, 60, will step aside at the end of June after 10 years in the top job. He will be succeeded by Ondrej Vlcek, who joined the company as a teenager and is currently president of the company’s consumer business.

Steckler led the company through the major acquisition of AVG and its listing on the London Stock Exchange. He is credited with having grown the company’s revenues from under $20 million to over $800 million.

The American, who is the fourth largest shareholder in the company, will remain available in an advisory capacity for another year after his retirement.

Steckler said that he will step back for family and personal reasons, adding that he has no plans of going back to an executive role in a company.

Vlcek, a 41-year-old Czech national, started at Avast in 1995 as a developer and was part of the team that took the company public, and also led the integration of the consumer business after the company bought AVG in 2016.

Shares in Avast, which had risen about 24 percent since its debut, were trading down 6 percent at 289.5 pence at 1216 GMT, with Morgan Stanley analysts saying the CEO transition could be a potential concern for investors.

The company, which pioneered the “freemium” model in security software by giving away its basic product free, expects to deliver high single-digit adjusted revenue growth in 2019.

Its adjusted core earnings margin is expected to remain broadly flat year-on-year, as the company plans to reinvest in the business’ R&D and technology.

Adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization rose 6.7 percent to $447.7 million, in the year ended Dec. 31, just below analysts’ estimates of $450 million, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

Adjusted revenue, excluding discontinued business, rose 9.5 percent to $811.5 million, compared with an estimate of $819.2 million.

The FTSE 250 company has diversified its revenue in recent years from its best known antivirus solution to include services for e-commerce, browsing, advertising and analytics.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty/Keith Weir

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