Opera browser raises $115 million in initial public offering

Opera celebrates early Friday.


Opera, an underdog in a browser market dominated by Google’s Chrome, raised $115 million in an initial public offering Friday.

The company sold 9.6 million American depositary shares at $12 each, the high end of the $10 to $12 range it expected for the IPO. When the stock started trading more broadly at 7:30 a.m. PT, it rose a further 28 percent to $15.34.

American depositary shares are used to let a foreign company trade its stock on US markets. Opera was founded in Norway. A Chinese consortium acquired Opera in 2016, but its operating headquarters remain in Oslo. Opera’s ticker symbol is OPRA on Nasdaq.

Opera is one of the longest-lived browsers on the market. It began as a 1994 research project at Telenor, Norway’s largest telecommunications company, which spun it off in 1995. Opera has never achieved the status of its bigger rivals — Netscape Navigator at the start, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer a few years later, and now Google’s Chrome. But it has remained a steady presence in the market.

The IPO doesn’t profoundly change the browser market, which Google’s Chrome dominates on both PCs and phones, but it does add a new level of visibility into a crucial element of technology in our lives. Most browsers are either folded into larger operations, like those of Google, Apple and Microsoft, or run privately.

The company reported net income of $6.1 million on revenue of $128.9 million in 2017, up from a net loss of $12.7 million on revenue of $107.3 million in 2016. In the first three months of 2018, Opera reported net income of $6.6 million on revenue of $39.4 million. The company makes money through partnerships with search engines, including Google and Yandex, that pay for search traffic it sends their way and through advertising deals like promoting websites on the browser’s bookmarking, or speed dial, page.

Opera has 264 million monthly active users on smartphones and 57 million on personal computers, Opera said in regulatory filings. Starting in 2017, it built an AI-powered news service into its browser and now offers it as a standalone app called Opera News. That has 90 million monthly users.

Opera long maintained its independence but, in 2016, agreed to an acquisition by a Chinese consortium for $1.2 billion. Regulatory difficulties ultimately reduced that price to $575 million. Opera already had lost some software independence in 2013 when it decided to rebuild its browser on the Blink project at the heart of Google’s Chrome.

On PCs, Opera also competes against Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox and Microsoft’s Edge. On mobile devices, there are newer challengers, too, like the widely used UC Browser.

In the overall browser market, Opera accounts for 3.5 percent of website usage, according to analytics firm StatCounter. On smartphones, it’s slightly more influential at 4.6 percent.

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