Opera Software agrees to be bought by Chinese firms for €1B

Opera Software accepted a NOK10.5 billion (€1 billion/$1.2 billion) takeover bid by a consortium of Chinese technology companies, in a move management said would boost Opera's competitiveness against companies including Google, Apple and Facebook.

The company's board unanimously agreed to the sale following a strategic review process started in August last year. The deal was anticipated after Opera Software delayed the announcement of its 2015 fourth-quarter results by one day. Trading in the company's shares was also suspended on Friday and was lifted just ahead of the announcement on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Opera, which specialises in mobile web browsers and mobile advertising, said an acquisition by the consortium "is the most attractive proposition for the shareholders, the company and its employees."

Two Chinese Internet firms, Kunlun and Qihoo, are behind the consortium and are backed by the investment funds Golden Brick and Yonglian. Opera said the transaction would give it additional funding and access to markets in China, while also enabling Kunlun and Qihoo to cross-sell their products and services to the Opera user base.

In comments made during a news conference in Oslo, chairman Sverre Munck explained that the strategy behind the move is to create a bigger ecosystem for the company.

"Ecosystem is a key word because we compete with the big ones, Facebook, Google, Apple. To compete alone against an ecosystem is rather demanding. Now we become part of an ecosystem that suits us well," Munck said, Bloomberg reported.

The company reported revenue for the fourth quarter of 2015 that beat analyst forecasts, according to Reuters. Revenue was up 25 per cent at $193.5 million (€171 million) compared to a Reuters poll of $173 million. However, EBITDA was down 5 per cent year-on-year at $32.8 million. This was within company guidance of $29 million-$33 million, Reuters noted.

Meanwhile Opera Software also unveiled the global launch of a new product this week that is designed to provide mobile operators with an "all you can eat" subscription service for Android apps. The Opera Apps Club, which the company described as a "Netflix-style" service, would be payable through operators' billing systems and is based on an existing product provided by Bemobi in Brazil and Latin America. Opera acquired Bemobi in 2015.

The company has not yet revealed any operator partners for the service, but is clearly planning to take Opera Apps Club global.

Pedro Ripper, CEO of Bemobi, said the company has been evaluating multiple geographies.

"In Europe we're initially targeting Russia and some selected CIS countries. We've also been in discussions with mobile carriers in Spain and Germany," Ripper said in comments emailed to FierceWireless:Europe.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this separate Reuters article
- see the Opera Software results release
- see the Opera Software offer announcement
- see the Opera Apps Club announcement

Related articles:
Opera postpones earnings call, fuelling speculation of an acquisition
Opera Software exploring offers from external investors; reveals drop in Q2 net income
Microsoft launches sub-$30 'Internet' phone to connect the next billion
Opera takes leading role in Microsoft feature-phone browser development
Norway's Opera to buy AdColony to extend global reach

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