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Google Close to Investment in Messaging Startup Symphony

The Internet giant is close to taking a stake in the secure-messaging firm.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images North America

Google is in the late stage of discussions to make an investment in the secure messaging startup Symphony, sources familiar with the talks tell Re/code.

Terms of the investment — including its size — could not be determined, and sources stressed that talks concerning a potential deal haven’t concluded yet. An announcement could be made as soon as next week, these people say.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the investment, said the deal will value Symphony, based in Palo Alto, Calif., and with offices in New York, at $650 million. Spokespeople for Google and Symphony declined to comment.

According to sources familiar with Google, the investment would come from Google proper — not its investment arms, Google Ventures and Google Capital (now Alphabet entities). Google made a similar move last year, led a $500 million round for the secretive augmented realty startup Magic Leap, though any investment in Symphony is likely to be smaller.

An investment by Google in Symphony would follow the conclusion of an agreement between several large investment banks and the New York Department of Financial Services concerning their use of the product. The terms of that arrangement call for Symphony to store for seven years messages sent via Symphony. The DFS had raised questions about Symphony’s encryption technology and whether or not it could be used by banks to avoid scrutiny by regulators.

Symphony has now been backed by 15 large Wall Street banks and financial institutions including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, J.P. Morgan and Citi, which together have so far ponied up about $66 million.

Google would appear to be Symphony’s first investor from outside the financial industry. In March, the Internet giant hired Ruth Porat, a respected finance veteran from Morgan Stanley, as its CFO. On Wall Street, Porat is seen as ushering in more transparency to a company that has historically shirked it. Porat is known for holding “office hours” with investors to detail the finances of Google and its new holding parent, Alphabet. At the same time, it has signaled a new interest in financial products, including a payments service within its Gmail email service and a mortgage comparison offering within its mainstream search product.

Symphony has built a cloud-based messaging service that uses advanced encryption technology to keep communications secure. It is aimed primarily at financial companies, which are required by law to keep copies of their messages for several years in case regulators or law enforcement ever need them for an investigation.

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