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Cisco to buy network security firm

In a bid to boost its presence in the network security market, the company plans to acquire privately held software maker Okena in a deal worth about $154 million.

Cisco Systems plans to acquire privately held Okena in a deal worth about $154 million, the companies said Friday.

Okena, based in Waltham, Mass., makes network security software that intercepts all operating system, file system, configuration, registry and network requests, looking for malicious activity. The software also protects against viruses.

Under the terms of the deal, Cisco will trade common stock worth $154 million for all outstanding shares and options of Okena. It expects to take a charge of 1 cent per share in 2003 to write off in-process research and development. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of fiscal 2003.

Cisco said the acquisition should boost its presence in the network security market, which it has also approached from a hardware angle.

The new acquisition is "part of a significant initiative to more tightly integrate network and endpoint security," Cisco Vice President Richard Palmer said in a release. "By removing endpoint vulnerabilities, Okena's preventative software solution enhances the overall security, availability and integrity of corporate networks."

Cisco is known as something of a big spender in the tech world, although its pace of acquisitions has slowed somewhat in recent years. The company made five acquisitions in 2002, two in 2001 and 23 in 2000. This is its first acquisition of 2003.