MessageLabs obtains $60M loan to boost research

Small security vendor aims to bolster its R&D efforts, localize its products, and target SMBs

MessageLabs, one of a handful of smaller security vendors competing in a cut-throat market, has secured a $60 million loan that it will use to bolster its research and development efforts, the company said Thursday.

The private Gloucester, England, company will double its 10-person research team in Toronto by July, complementing its 80-person U.K. team, said Jos White, MessageLabs co-founder and chief marketing officer.

The two engineering teams will work on meshing MessageLabs services, which include e-mail, IM (instant message), and Web traffic filtering, White said. MessageLabs differs from other security vendors in that a client's e-mail or IM traffic is diverted to one of the company's datacenters where it is cleansed of malicious content. The service is sold on subscription.

Engineers will work to integrate the management of those services, such as setting policies to block certain attachments in e-mails, into a single portal, White said.

MessageLabs has identified Japan and Germany as locales ripe for growth with their heavy use of e-mail and messaging services and a need for security, White said. The company will work to localize its products in those countries, targeting small to midsize businesses plus larger enterprises, he added.

MessageLabs is vying for a larger share of a security market dominated by Symantec, McAfee, and Trend Micro, which collectively held about 86 percent of the market during 2005, according to research firm Gartner.

Gartner reported in June that the antivirus software market is expected to experience double-digit growth over the next year, with increased interest in suites covering several security concerns, such as spam, viruses, and hacking attempts.

White said MessageLabs increased its revenue 37 percent year-over-year for its fiscal year, which ended July 31. The company turned its first-ever profit of $2.3 million since it was founded in 2000, White said.

The loan, which came from Lloyds TSB Bank, is due in three years, said Stephen Chandler, chief financial officer at MessageLabs.

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