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Private equity giant Thoma Bravo LLC is said to be mulling an offer today to acquire the British cybersecurity firm Darktrace Plc.

Although no offer has been made yet, Darktrace said in a regulatory filing that talks have taken place over a possible deal and that an offer may follow.

Darktrace Chief Executive Poppy Gustafsson said in a statement that discussions are at a “preliminary stage” and there can be no certainty that any offer will be made. Reuters reported that Thoma Bravo has until Sept. 15 to make a bid for the firm or walk away.

Cambridge-based Darktrace sells a cybersecurity platform that uses artificial intelligence to find threats across companies’ cloud environments, employee devices and other systems. It uses software sensors to understand what tasks each system performs as part of a company’s routine day-to-day business activity. Darktrace’s AI models identify breaches by looking for anomalous actions that differ from the usual day-to-day activity mapped out by its sensors.

Whenever it discovers a potential threat, Darktrace’s platform isolates the suspect system and limits it to the normal day-to-day tasks it usually performs. The company says this tactic blocks malicious activity while minimizing business disruptions.

Darktrace notably has ties with Mike Lynch, the British software entrepreneur who has been charged with 14 counts of conspiracy and fraud linked to the $11.6 billion sale of his former company Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2011.

In January, the U.K. authorized the extradition of Lynch to the U.S., following months of legal wrangling. Lynch, who strongly denies any wrongdoing over the Autonomy sale, helped to found Darktrace in 2013. He remained a director of the company until 2018, when he stepped down, though he continued to sit on its advisory council until 2021.

Darktrace went public via an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange in April 2021 and its value soared over the next three months. However, the stock has since faded and is now trading below its IPO price, despite jumping 17% on today’s news of Thoma Bravo’s interest.

Thoma Bravo has spent billions of dollars on acquisitions this year, buying up public firms that it believes could be undervalued given the current economic climate. Its most recent deal saw it pay $2.8 billion to acquire Ping Identity Holding Corp. earlier this month. In April it spent $6.9 billion to buy cybersecurity firm SailPoint Technologies Holdings Inc., one month after paying $10.7 billion to acquire Anaplan Inc., which sells business planning software.

In Thoma Bravo’s biggest deal in recent memory, it paid $12.3 billion to acquire another cybersecurity firm, Proofpoint Inc., in April 2021.

Photo: London Stock Exchange/Twitter

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