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Opera to be sold to Chinese tech companies for US$1.2b

[STOCKHOLM] Opera Software ASA agreed to sell itself to a group of Chinese technology companies for about 10.5 billion kroner (US$1.2 billion) in a deal that will give the Norwegian maker of Web browsers additional financing and access to new customers in China.

The group will begin a 71-kroner-a-share cash tender offer for Opera, the Oslo-based company said in a statement Wednesday. That's 46 per cent above the last closing price, on Feb 5. Investors owning about a third of Opera and members of the executive team and the board holding shares have agreed to the offer, and the board is recommending it to stockholders, Opera said.

The buyers include private-equity firm Golden Brick Capital Management Ltd, Chinese game maker Beijing Kunlun Tech Co, Internet security provider Qihoo 360 Technology Co and Yonglian Investment Co. The sale will give Opera access to the Web-user base of Kunlun and Qihoo in China as well as additional financing, the company said.

"If you look at the industrial partners, it's an ecosystem idea," Chairman Sverre Munck said at a news conference in Oslo. "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." Opera's browsers help mobile-phone, tablet and computer users surf the Web faster by using less data. The software maker has 350 million monthly active users of its consumer products. Its browsers are embedded in devices made by smartphone makers such as Samsung Electronics Co and Xiaomi Corp.

The Opera Mini browser had about 7.3 per cent of the mobile market last month, behind Chrome's 42 per cent, Safari's 34 per cent and Android browser's 11.1 per cent, according to data from

Opera started a review of its options in August after receiving strategic interest from a number of parties.

Fredrik Steinslien, an analyst at Pareto Securities AS, said the offer appears attractive given his 63 kroner share price target and Opera's 2016 earnings guidance that was "well below" its prediction.

Opera shares, which fell 47 per cent last year, climbed last week on speculation a deal was planned. The stock jumped 37 per cent to 66.90 kroner at 11:35 a.m. in Oslo, giving the company a market value of 10 billion kroner. Trading in the stock was halted on Feb. 5 because of media speculation about a bid.


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