updated 04:20 pm EDT, Tue May 29, 2012
An offer by Facebook could spark an Opera bidding war
Facebook's rumored plan to purchase Opera Software could set off a bidding war for the popular browser maker, one that might see Opera selling for more than $1 billion, unnamed bankers have told Reuters. Analysts suggest a Facebook bid would bring competition from multiple Internet players, including Google, due to Opera's importance in the developing world.
The social network is thought to be eyeing the browser maker as a means of increasing its footprint in the mobile sector. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has previously noted the importance of mobile computing in Facebook's future, and the company in recent weeks has been experimenting with an increased focus on mobile.
Opera makes a number of browsers that work across mobile phones, tablets, PCs, and televisions. Its mobile browser handles much of its users' web-surfing data on Opera's servers before compressing it and sending it on, which saves users on data costs in addition to making their browsing faster.
Snatching up Opera would likely be more than a matter of writing a check, as Facebook did in the case of Instagram. Frequent Facebook rival Google would likely attempt to head off any takeover of the Opera browser, as Opera's popularity in the developing world, in combination with Google's status as the default search resource for the browser, makes Opera an important strategic partner. While Google already has its own Chrome browser, analysts suggest it is not outside the realm of possibility that the search giant could make a bid on Opera, if only to increase the price that Facebook would eventually pay for the company.
Opera's executives, for their part, have mostly declined to comment on any potential buyout. The company's shares traded 26 percent higher today on news of the possible acquisition. Opera's founder and top shareholder said the firm will remain focused on organic growth, with a goal of 500 million users by 2013. Opera executives have said that they are interested in working with Facebook, but they are also interested in working with Google and other Internet players.