Opera Plunges as $1 Billion Buyout by Chinese Group Fails to Get Approval

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  • Takeover canceled as government approval didn’t materialize
  • Chinese consortium paying $600 million to get browsers

Opera Software ASA fell as much as 17 percent 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 $600 million.

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 Ltd., according to a statement Monday. Opera will keep businesses such as applications and games.

Opera fell 17 percent to 50 kroner at 9:29 a.m. in Oslo, valuing the company at 7.3 billion kroner ($860 million). The buyer group’s original bid in February for all of Opera was 71 kroner a share, which at the time was a 46 percent 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 Co. and Xiaomi Corp.

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

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 U.S., 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 Co., Internet security provider Qihoo 360 Technology Co. and Yonglian Investment Co. Its original offer valued Opera at more than $1 billion.

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.