Shares in Opera Software ASA, the Norwegian marker of Internet browsers, surged the most on record in Oslo after technology website Pocket-Lint reported that Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq: FB) may try to acquire the company.
Opera gained as much as 26 percent, the biggest jump since it first sold shares in 2004. The Oslo-based company rose 18 percent, giving it a market value of $807 million.
Opera is the last major independent browser left, with the others owned by giants such as Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), said Aleksander Nilsen, an analyst at Abg Sundal Collier in Oslo. The company has a strong balance sheet, and could be an attractive target for other companies, such as Google, he said.
“A deal would make strategic sense for Facebook,” said Nilsen, who doesn’t own shares of either company. “If they want to get their own browser, they have two alternatives: one is to build their own browser, which will take some time, and two is to buy a company that has a current browser. Opera is the only independent player here.”
The Pocket-Lint report cited an unidentified source.
Pal Unanue-Zahl, an Opera spokesman, declined to comment on speculation. Bethan Thomas, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company doesn’t comment on rumor and speculation.
Opera’s revenue may increase 38 percent this year, according to the average estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Adjusted earnings per share may rise 50 percent.
Chief Executive Officer Lars Boilesen has expanded Opera to 150 million users a month by targeting faster-growing markets such as Russia and Indonesia where it is one of the cheapest way to access the Internet, he said in an interview in February. The company plans to release improvements to its computer, smartphone and TV products this year, he said.
An acquisition of a company such as Opera could help Facebook create its own phone or help it improve its services on mobile phones, computers and televisions, said Tony Cripps, a principal analyst at Ovum in London.
“To become a real power player in the consumer technology market, you need to have a strong presence in the devices themselves,” Cripps said in an interview. “The Web browser might be the best route in that it gives you the ability to do a lot of what you can do with an operating system: you can run apps and app stores through the Web browser.”
Facebook raised $16 billion in its initial public offering this month. The company is trying to adapt as more users access its site via mobile phones. That put pressure on executives to articulate their mobile strategy as they marketed the stock to potential investors ahead of the IPO. Facebook has said it will add mobile advertising along with new ads to reach users when they log off of the company’s website.