Network Associates Inc., a fast-growing security-software company, agreed to buy Dr. Solomon's Group for $642 million in stock as it battles Symantec Corp. for leadership of the anti-computer-virus market. Network Associates would pay 0.82875 share for each American depositary receipt of Dr. Solomon's, Britain's leading maker of software that protects against viruses that damage computer files. That values each ADR at $34.81, about 8% over Monday's closing price. The purchase would bolster Network Associates' security programs as the company takes on Symantec and its popular Norton software. Virus protection is the fastest-growing established part of the software industry, as companies seek to safeguard their data when they link PCs to the Internet and corporate networks. Santa Clara-based Network Associates was formed last year by the union of McAfee Associates Inc. and Network General Corp. Since then, it has acquired several security-software makers, including Secure Networks, Pretty Good Privacy Inc. and Trusted Information Systems Inc. On Nasdaq, Network Associates shares rose $1.88 to close at $43.88 and Dr. Solomon's ADRs rose $3.38 to close at $35.50.
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