UK outfit Marshal and the US-based 8e6 Technologies have announced plans to merge with one another to create a new privately-held security company, Marshal8e6.

The merger will create a new company with a combined turnover of $50 million, 20,000 customers, and 250 employees as far apart as Basingstoke in the UK, Orange Country in California, Auckland in New Zealand, and Taiwan. Both companies will end up with precisely 50 percent of the new company's shares, making this a true merger of equals.

Marshall is best known for its email and messaging security products and the Threat Research and Content Engineering team (TRACE) system which tracks Internet-borne threats, while 8e6 has made a name for itself in web filtering and proxy blocking. In theory, the low level of overlap makes the two companies complimentary.

"We were surprised. It was like looking at twins," said former Marshal CEO, Ed Macnair of the process of due diligence the two companies carried out on one another.

"Marshal hasn't got a big name in the US, so to lose the 8e6 name in the US would be like starting all over again, he said of the decision to retain the old company names in the new, merged, entity.

Macnair moves to become the chief strategy officer in Marshal8e6, leaving 8e6 CEO, George Shih, to become CEO on an interim basis while a long-term head is found.

"Today's threat landscape does not discriminate between Web-based and email threats," continued Macnair."To combat these threats effectively, you need the ability to integrate email and Web security."

It is tempting to see the bonding of two smallish companies with specialist security technology as in part a form of consolidation driven by difficult market conditions. Scale is one way of surviving, with a merger a means of achieving this without the need to exchange cash, or in the case of public companies, use shares, which are currently depressed.

It could turn out to be the exception, or it could become a more common way for new companies to be born. A problem for many other small security companies is that product lines with potential merger partners may overlap, which means shedding products.

Macnair said that the two companies were currently working to integrate their product lines at a management console level.

"Marshal and 8e6 Technologies will merge their complementary product lines and geographical distribution networks to create the only Internet and email security company capable of delivering comprehensive content security across multiple delivery platforms," said a message on the combined company's new website.