UPDATE 2-Symantec beats Street, new CEO begins to make his mark

Jim Finkle

* CEO Steve Bennett takes control of sales force

* Q2 profit, revenue beat Street view

* Sees Q3 profit below Street view

* Shares rally 9 percent

BOSTON, Oct 24 - Symantec Corp reported results ahead of Wall Street expectations as its new chief executive took direct control of the company's sales force as part of an effort to turn around the maker of security software.

Shares in the company, which had fired its previous CEO, Enrique Salem, in July after its stock had languished for years, rallied 9 percent in extended trade.

``The company is performing pretty well in a tough environment. You have a new CEO who is off to a good start,'' said Daniel Ives, analyst with FBR Capital Markets.

The new CEO, Steve Bennett, said in a conference call that the company is continuing with a previously announced strategic and operational review and plans to announce the results of that evaluation in late January.

``We continue to evaluate all strategic alternatives to create shareholder value,'' Bennett said. He added that he was starting with ``a clean piece of paper.''

The company issued a profit outlook for fiscal third-quarter, which ends in December, that was below Wall Street expectations as Bennett said he plans to boost spending in some areas.

Symantec said it expects to post third-quarter profit, excluding items, of 36 cents to 38 cents per share, below the average forecast of 42 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. It forecast third-quarter revenue of $1.72 billion TO $1.75 billion, compared with the average forecast of $1.72 billion.

Bennett said that the profit shortfall was partly due to plans to boost investment in some areas, including providing technical support for its products, where the company had wrongly cut back to keep expenses down.

``We were reducing costs in areas that were hurting our position with customers,'' he said in the conference call.

The company also disclosed that its global sales chief, William Robbins, had stepped down from that post and will be leaving the company.

Bennett, who honed his management chops during a 23-year career at General Electric Co, will directly supervise the company's regional sales executives.

``At this point, you want Mr. Bennett more involved, rather than less,'' said Ives.

Symantec reported profit, excluding items, of 45 cents per share, during its fiscal second-quarter ended Sept 28, handily beating the average analyst forecast of 38 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Quarterly revenue rose 1 percent from a year earlier to $1.7 billion, beating the Street view of $1.66 billion.

Symantec shares were quoted at $18.94 in extended trade, up 9 percent from their Nasdaq close of $17.37.