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(Update: deal approved) Opera will likely be bought by Chinese investors for $1.2 billion

May 25, 2016
opera browser 2

Update, May 25: As expected, Opera’s shareholders overwhelmingly voted in favor of the buyout. The company announced today that over 90% of shareholders approved the $1.2 billion deal. Pending approval from regulators in Norway and China, a consortium of Chinese companies including Qihoo 360, Kunlun, and Yonglian will become the corporate overlord of the venerable Opera.

Original post, February 10: Opera Software, the Norwegian company known for its browsers and data compression technology, has received a buyout offer from a consortium of Chinese investors. Opera’s board of directors recommended shareholders to accept the $1.2 billion deal, and it’s likely that the acquisition will go through.

Years before Android and iOS, Opera was one of the pioneers of mobile internet access. Its Opera Mini browser allowed Java-based and Symbian device owners to get online, albeit on a very basic form of the web. On desktops, Opera’s browser enjoyed some early success, but its market share never really took off, and it’s currently hovering around 1-2%.

In recent years, Opera used its compression expertize to launch products targeted at users looking to save on their data consumption. While Opera Mini always had data compression at its core, Opera Max brought similar savings to traffic generated by apps. Non-encrypted traffic is routed through Opera’s servers and compressed, resulting in significant data savings. In 2015, Opera extended this capability to several audio and video streaming services, making it possible to stream, say, Pandora, with 50% less data.

Opera Max App Review

Getting back to the acquisition, Opera’s suitors are Qihoo 360 and Kunlun, with funding from investment funds Golden Brick and Yonglian. Qihoo 360 is a security company that offers, among others, the popular 360 Security app for Android, as well as a browser and other security products.

The $1.2 billion offer is a generous 53% premium over Opera’s stock price before the announcement of the offer, and it’s likely that shareholders will approve it. The deal will require regulatory approval.

How will this acquisition change Opera as we know it? It’s hard to say, but at the very least, a deep-pocketed owner could help make Opera’s products more visible.