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Surging corporate and consumer demand for anti-virus software enabled Symantec and McAfee, the world's top two security software makers, to on Thursday report higher-than-expected quarterly earnings.

Symantec, which leads the market with its Norton security products, said its fiscal first-quarter net profit rose 70 per cent, but the group's shares fell more than 5 per cent in after hours trading because sales fell short of Wall Street expectations.

McAfee, the second largest security software vendor, said it second-quarter net income rose fourfold. The group's shares rose 2 per cent as the company raised its full-year profit and sales forecasts, reflecting strong demand from companies and government agencies trying to safeguard their computers from hackers and internet viruses.

Security-related software sales were seen rising to $4.4bn by 2007, according to market researcher IDC. But the two companies are preparing for tough competition from Microsoft, which is poised to release new security products following a series of recent acquisitions.

For the quarter ended July 1, Symantec had net income of $199m, or 27 cents per share, up from $117m, or 16 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts expected the group to earn 25 cents per share.

Symantec, which earlier this month closed its $10.25bn purchase of Veritas, the data storage management software firm, had revenue of $700m, up from $577m a year ago. Analysts were expecting sales of $713m.

Meanwhile, McAfee said net income rose to $41.7m, or 25 cents per share, compared with $10.2m, or 6 cents, in the year earlier period. Not including special items, the group had a profit of 31 cents, topping analysts' expectations of 25 cents. Revenue was $245m, up from $226m last year and better than the analysts' forecast of $228m.

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