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Antivirus chief behind massive technology float Avast barred from publicly addressing accounting scandal

The chief executive of an antivirus company preparing what could be one of the largest ever technology floats in the UK has refused to publicly address an accounting scandal in which he was accused of fiddling the books. 
Vincent Steckler, chief executive of $4bn (?2.8bn) stock market hopeful Avast, declined to comment on a settlement reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 1999 while working at a reseller business called Logicon. 
Mr Steckler was in charge of placing a $7m order with US-based software company Legato Systems that was cancelled yet found its way onto the books, sparking a six-year investigation from the SEC. 
According to court documents, the SEC alleged that in 1999, Mr Steckler placed the order along with an undisclosed "side" agreement that gave his employer the right to cancel the order, leading Legato to overstate its financial results.
Following the complaint, Mr Steckler settled for $35,000. He went on to take up leadership roles at cyber security company Symantec before taking the reins at Avast, which on Thursday announced a blockbuster flotation that sources suggest could value the company at around $4bn.
Antivirus chief behind massive technology float Avast barred from publicly addressing accounting scandal

Avast offers free antivirus software, including AVG, to 435m people worldwide

Credit:
AP
Should the float go ahead, Mr Steckler and fellow management and staff would look to sell down some of their 18pc stake in the company ahead of tax bills due in May, putting them in line for a $715m payout. 
The listing, which is expected to occur in early May, aims to raise around $200m in primary proceeds from selling new shares. These would be used to pay down debt and fund its growth plans, according to Prague-based Avast.
It also hopes to raise $800m in secondary proceeds from selling existing shares, potentially giving the company its $4bn valuation. It will ultimately have at least 25pc of its stock freely floated.
The software company offers free antivirus but makes its money by selling around 4pc of its users paid-for products. It had a turnover of $780m in 2017 with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $353m.
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Aside from management's stake, 46pc of the company is owned by Avast's two founders Eduard Kucera and Pavel Baudis, 29pc by private equity firm CVC, and 7pc by venture capital fund Summit Partners. 
Avast, which counts Norton, McAfee and Kaspersky as its main rivals in the market, said shareholders could expect dividends in 2019. 
The business originally planned to float in New York in 2012 but later pulled out citing "overall bad market conditions". Sources close to the company said it had opted for London this time around because it was seen as better market for larger-scale, profitable technology companies. 
It is understood the company is undaunted by floating in London ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, even though the majority of its customers, and two thirds of its staff, are based in Europe.
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