Opera Software CEO says not aiming to sell firm

OSLO Tue Oct 1, 2013 10:34am EDT

OSLO (Reuters) - Fast-growing internet software maker Opera (OPERA.OL) is neither seeking a buyer nor is it in the market for any big acquisitions, Chief Executive Lars Boilesen told the Reuters Nordic Investment Summit on Tuesday.

Opera's deep reach into emerging markets through its mobile browsers would offer a potential suitor instant access to fast growing markets.

The Norwegian company has been on the radar of global technology firms for years, with analysts often mentioning Facebook (FB.O), Nokia (NOK1V.HE) and Microsoft (MSFT.O) as possible buyers.

The takeover talk that began before Opera's stock market listing in 2003 has helped push its shares to an all-time high, but it has remained stubbornly independent, opting instead for partnerships with international tech giants.

It has a multi-year search deal that makes Google (GOOG.O) the default option in its browser, and has joined the Facebook-led Internet.org which aims to speed up the spread of cheap online access to developing countries.

CEO Boilesen said the company was on track to reach its announced 2015 revenue target of $500 million, 70 percent higher than its estimated 2013 sales, as the use of smartphones and tablets spreads to an ever-growing part of the world's population.

"We think we are on track for that number," Boilesen said of the longer-term sales target.

Opera's internet browser is popular with mobile phone users, especially in developing nations, for its ability to compress content, while the recently acquired Skyfire helps mobile operators optimize the use of network capacity.

In America and Europe, a separate business in digital advertising tools distributes online ads to more than 350 million people every month. Add in the 320 million browser users, the vast majority in developing countries, and the total could soon hit 700 million.

Opera recently raised its sales and earnings guidance for 2013, and the share price has more than doubled since the start of the year to a record 65.75 Norwegian crowns, giving it a market value of close to $1.4 billion.

"We do not spend time trying to sell the company," Boilesen said. "There is always a lot of speculation."

He pointed to the Skyfire acquisition in early 2013, at a cost of up to $155 million if all financial targets are met, as proof he does not plan to sell the company any day soon.

"It wouldn't be the obvious thing to do," he said.

Neither is he looking for more acquisitions though.

"It was a bit unusual (that) we had to go and acquire the video technology. I don't see anything we need to buy. We do not expect to go out and acquire new technologies. We would rather hire more engineers and develop them in our labs."

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(Additional reporting by Alister Doyle, Henrik Stolen and Nerijus Adomaitis; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)