Opera seen a Facebook fit but no "For Sale" sign

Tue May 29, 2012 2:02pm EDT
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By Joachim Dagenborg and Balazs Koranyi

OSLO (Reuters) - Facebook is under pressure to make money from the increasing number of users who access the social networking site from mobiles, making Norway's Opera a good fit for it, bankers familiar with the technology industry said.

Shares in the mobile browser maker soared by as much as 26 percent on Tuesday. Tech blogs reported recently that it was in the sights of Facebook, which was criticized at the time of its $100 billion initial public offering for failing to have an effective mobile advertising strategy.

Opera's Internet browser optimizes surfing on mobiles, which can be a slow and painful experience especially on more basic phones, and is especially popular in emerging markets.

Bankers said the company had long been up for sale informally but they ruled out rival interest from the likes of Google and Yahoo in the short term.

"The company has been available for a long time. Informally it is for sale," one of the bankers said. "And Facebook wants to buy its way into the emerging markets."

Another source familiar with the matter said it was unclear whether interest from third parties would ultimately result in closer partnerships or an outright takeover of Opera.

"Opera is attracting growing interest as mobile becomes more strategic for Internet companies, but there is no ‘For Sale' sign up over the company," the source said.

Opera currently benefits from partnerships with multiple companies including Google, which would be threatened by a takeover from a powerful rival such as Facebook.   Continued...

In this photo illustration, a Facebook logo on a computer screen is seen through a magnifying glass held by a woman in Bern May 19, 2012. Picture taken May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Hodel