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NEW YORK, Aug 19 (Reuters) – Chip maker Intel Corp (NASDAQ:INTC) said it would buy security technology firm McAfee Inc (NYSE:MFE) for $7.68 billion in an effort to make security technology a strategic focus.

Intel said it would pay $48 per share in cash for McAfee in its biggest acquisition ever. The price is a 60 percent premium to McAfee’s Wednesday closing price. McAfee would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel’s software and services group.

Vijay Rakesh, an analyst at Sterne Agee, said he was surprised by the size of the premium but added that the deal showed Intel’s willingness to move from hardware to software and services.

"I think people were probably (expecting) some smaller acquisitions from Intel. It’s definitely — even by Intel’s standards — a pretty big acquisition for them." said Rakesh.

Intel said the boards of both companies had approved the deal and it expects it to close once it gains McAfee shareholder approval and regulatory clearance. It did not provide a specific timeframe.

The chip maker has made several software acquisitions in the last few years, including the purchase in June 2009 of Wind River, a company focused on mobile software.

Intel said it expects the deal will slightly reduce its net earnings in the first year, although on a non-GAAP basis it is expected to help profit slightly.

McAfee, which was founded in 1987 and had $2 billion in revenue in 2009, has been working with Intel on a variety of projects for the last 18 months.

Through that partnership, Intel "decided a combination could be very powerful for bringing enhanced security to consumers," Renee James, who runs Intel’s software and services group, said in an interview.

"We have lots of activities going on in growing connected devices … from connected television to mobile devices," she said. "As we look at the businesses we’re in, we see that security is the number one purchase consideration. We believe that we can enhance security with hardware and come up with a better solution."

Intel shares fell 2.7 percent to $19.06 in premarket trade after news of the deal, while McAfee shares rose 58 percent to $47.32. (Reporting by Sinead Carew, Elinor Comlay and Steve Eder; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace)