SecureNet attracts US suitor

Managed security services company 90East could be the only remaining 'true blue' Australian IT security provider to federal government agencies such as the Department of Defence if beTrusted's $110 million bid for SecureNet is approved.

The bid, which was announced last week and saw a significant jump in SecureNet shares on the Australian Stock Exchange, means 90East is the only Australian company left on the list of three accredited suppliers to the federal government which includes CSC and SecureNet.

beTrusted, which was formerly a PricewaterhouseCoopers spinoff launched in 1999 to compete in the Australian Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) market, was acquired by One Equity Partners, which is owned by the US-based Bank One Corporation in January, 2003.

SecureNet CEO Geoff Ross has accepted the bid but not only does it require approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) but allowances have been made to get the nod from agencies such as ASIO, Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) and the Australian Security Vetting Service.

Considering the client list of the accredited IT security providers to government, 90East executive chairman John Palfreyman is not surprised such agencies may be involved in the approval process.

However, he said 90East provides managed security for 70 per cent of outsourced federal government agencies so the foreign investment implications may not be as bad as it seems when assessing local input into federal IT security services.

As a locally listed company, SecureNet has some big-name clients including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) which it picked up after acquiring Baltimore Technologies in 2002.

Baltimore was the dominant PKI player at the time accredited under the federal government's Gatekeeper strategy.

Interestingly, Geoff Ross said he will stay on after the acquisition as Asia-Pacific chief and told the media he has a number of Australian acquisitions in his sights.

When beTrusted began in Australia it was headed by Stephen Wilson who joined SecureNet in 2001 to lead its consulting practice. When contacted by Computerworld, Wilson said he will be returning to beTrusted once the acquisition is completed.

The current Asia-Pacific CEO for beTrusted is Paul O'Rourke.

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More about 90EastASIOAustralian Securities ExchangeAustralian Taxation OfficeBaltimore TechnologiesBank OneCSC AustraliaDepartment of DefenceForeign Investment Review BoardPricewaterhouseCoopersPricewaterhouseCoopersSecureNet

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