Chinese Tech Group Led By Qihoo 360 Bids $1.2B For Browser Maker Opera

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There’s been plenty of speculation around the future of browser maker Opera, and now that looks like it will soon be resolved. Today the Norway-headquartered company confirmed that it has received a $1.2 billion acquisition offer from a group fronted by Chinese consumer tech companies Kunlun Tech and Qihoo 360.

The deal is for 100 percent of the company, and it represents a 53 percent premium on the company’s valuation based on its most recent trading price. Opera’s board said in a statement (PDF) that it has “unanimously decided to recommend” its shareholders to accept the bid. The final deal is subject to government approvals, in addition to shareholders.

The consortium making the bid is Golden Brick, a group comprised of Qihoo 360, one of China’s most visible (and controversial) Internet companies which recently went private in a $9.3 billion deal, and newly listed games firm Kunlun, which last month snapped up a majority 60 percent share in gay dating service Grindr. Investment firm Yonglian is the final member.

“There is strong strategic and industrial logic to the acquisition of Opera by the Consortium,” Opera CEO Lars Boilesen said in a statement. “We believe that the Consortium, with its breadth of expertise and strong market position in emerging markets, will be a strong owner of Opera. The Consortium’s ownership will strengthen Opera’s position to serve our users and partners with even greater innovation, and to accelerate our plans of expansion and growth.”

In a press release announcing the bid, the companies explained that the deal could help Opera grow its userbase in China, while giving Kunlun and Qihoo an outlet for user acquisition, too:

The transaction would give Opera access to the extensive internet user base of Kunlun and Qihoo in China as well as the financing and other support of the Consortium that would allow for the full potential of the Company to be realized. At the same time, Kunlun and Qihoo would be able to cross-sell their products and services to the Opera user base, and benefit from Opera’s leading mobile advertising platform.

Opera, which claims a userbase of 350 million on mobile and desktop devices and was previously linked with an acquisition from Facebook, said last year that it was exploring a sale after missing financial targets due to sluggish ad sales. The company was one of the first to pioneer browsers made for mobile, and it enjoyed an early start on mobile thanks to its compression technology (which shrinks data down to save on a user’s bill), small sized app, and bundling deals with carriers, particularly in emerging markets.

Beyond the browser, Opera has invested massively in its mobile advertising business — which now includes app install ads — and other acquisitions have included VPN service SurfEasy, and subscription-based mobile-app-discovery service Bemobi.

Acquisition rumors ramped up when Opera postponed its planned earnings release this week. Now that this offer is out in the public domain, Opera will hold its Q4 2015 earnings call today at 07:30am CET — there’s plenty to discuss.