Opera web browser firm sold for just $600m

Helsinki - Opera Software ASA fell as much as 17% after its sale to a Chinese group failed to get government approval and was canceled, and the company instead agreed to sell its web-browser business for $600m.

The Norwegian company will sell businesses including browsers for mobile devices and desktops, technology licensing and a stake in a Chinese venture to the same group that attempted the full takeover, led by private-equity firm Golden Brick Capital Management, according to a statement Monday. Opera will keep businesses such as applications and games.

Opera fell 17% to 50 kroner at 09:29 in Oslo, valuing the company at 7.3 billion kroner ($860m). The buyer group’s original bid in February for all of Opera was 71 kroner a share, which at the time was a 46% premium to the latest closing price.

The partial sale means the buyer group gets the assets that Opera is best known for - browsers that 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 and Xiaomi.

Still, Opera’s remaining businesses have growth potential. The company projected that sales in those units will increase as much as 30% this year from $570m to $605m this year, with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation rising as much as 22% to $75 million to $90m.

Opera said last week the full takeover still lacked government approval, without disclosing more details. The deal needed clearance from Chinese authorities and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, which can recommend transactions be blocked if they pose a risk to national security.

The buyer group includes also includes Chinese game maker Beijing Kunlun Tech, Internet security provider Qihoo 360 Technology and Yonglian Investment. Its original offer valued Opera at more than $1bn.

Opera started a review of its options in August after receiving strategic interest from a number of parties, and announced the planned full takeover in February.

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