VeriSign to divest several lines of business

VeriSign will refocus on its core businesses of managing domain name infrastructure and delivering Web site security certificates.

VeriSign plans to refocus its business on its two core activities, managing DNS infrastructure and selling SSL security certificates for Web sites.

It will take time to review three other business lines -- content delivery networks, mobile messaging and managed security services -- and sell the rest, investing the proceeds in, among other things, developing its new line of identity protection services.

"The core of our business is our unique strength in infrastructure," said CEO Bill Roper in a conference call with analysts on Wednesday.

Roper began a review of the company's activities at the end of May, when he took over as CEO following the surprise departure of former CEO Stratton Sclavos.

VeriSign has had a troubled year. Chief Financial Officer Dana Evans left in July, as the company restated financial results for the period 2002 to 2005 to revalue stock option grants by US$160 million.

As the company re-evaluates its business, it makes sense to focus on areas such as managing the DNS (Domain Name System) where it has unique expertise, Roper said.

"About 90 percent of the people who understand DNS work for VeriSign. That's our core competency," he said.

VeriSign began life as a certification authority, selling SSL (secure sockets layer) certificates to Web site operators, and moved into the business of managing DNS infrastructure for the dot-com and dot-net TLD (top-level domains) when it acquired Network Solutions.

The activities VeriSign will divest include billing, interactive applications, and SS7 signaling for telecommunications.

"It's the same mission, but with a different focus," said John Donovan, executive vice president of products, sales and marketing.

The company's core domain name business has plenty of room for growth, said Donovan.

Dot-com domain names can be up to 63 characters long, composed of letters, digits or hyphens, he said, making the total possible domain names a number 99 digits long. It now registers about one domain name very second, but even if it were to register 100 a second for a hundred years, it would not have exhausted all the possible eight-character domain names, he said.

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