Symantec had traded as high as $32 a share over the past year, but as of mid-September was down to about $13, well below the price when ValueLine recommended it. The question was why. On Excite's (www.excite.com) investment site, we checked for news stories about the company and found that Symantec had recently been hit with a court order in a copyright infringement suit filed by rival CyberMedia, which claimed Symantec had used some of CyberMedia's code in its "UnInstaller" program.
The judge ordered Symantec to stop shipping the allegedly infringing software, and Symantec said it was moving to replace already sold copies with a newly written, non-infringing version.
How much this would cost Symantec was unclear, but the company estimated the cost at about $5 million for the third quarter. In all, an embarrassing episode, but it hardly seemed enough to cause the stock to tank by almost two-thirds from its 52-week high. So we checked the chat rooms over at Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com) and found a thread of messages, most of them bullish on the stock, but with one frequent contributor who insisted he was long on the stock, but believed it would never go anywhere and was trading at about what it had five years ago.
Was this true? We visited the popular Big Charts (www.bigcharts.com) site and used their "Historical Quotes" feature to check Symantec's price as of July 30, 1993. Sure enough, it was at $13.38, almost exactly its current price. So we headed for Zacks Investment Research (www.Zacks.com, where we had signed up for a 30-day free trial) to see what stock analysts were saying. We found three Wall Street brokers were recommending a strong buy, three a buy and one a hold. For reasons unexplained, Zacks itself was recommending a hold.
At the end of our surfing, we were still puzzled about this stock, but we knew a lot more than when we started, and it had not cost a cent.
T.R. Reid is London bureau chief of the Washington Post. Brit Hume is managing editor of Fox News in Washington. You can reach them in care of the Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St., Washington D.C. 20071-9200, or you can e-mail T.R. Reid at email@example.com and Brit Hume at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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