Opera releases IPO details

Opera will begin trading publicly on 11 March in the first of what could be several high tech flotations for 2004

Norwegian browser maker Opera released full details on Thursday of its planned initial public offering, saying that it will launch on the Oslo Stock Exchange on 11 March.

Opera will issue between 12.5 and 16.1 million new shares, said the company, comprising one tranche for Norwegian and international institutional investors, and one tranche for Norwegian retail investors. In addition, existing shareholders have decided to sell 11,844,900 existing shares in the transaction. The indicative price range is between 8 Norwegian kroner (60p) and 10 kroner (75p) per share, valuing the company between 194 and 279 million kroner (£14.5 million to £20 million).

The performance of the offering is likely to be watched carefully by the industry: it is one of the first of what could be several Internet-related flotations planned for 2004, following the IPO drought of the past couple of years. Closer to home, Cambridge Silicon Radio, which makes a high proportion of the world's Bluetooth chipsets, is planning to float on the London Stock Exchange next week; conditional trading in its shares began this morning. The company hopes to raise more than £60m, making it the biggest tech offering on the LSE since financial software maker Marlborough Stirling floated in April 2001.

Search engine giant Google is also said to be considering an IPO. It may go public with an unusual electronic auction method, cutting underwriting costs and distancing the company from investment banking scandals like those during the dot-com boom. And last week, application server software firm JBoss restructured itself with the injection of $10m of venture capital money, paving the way for a possible IPO.

Opera's subscription period will close on Wednesday, 10 March, said the company, with the first day of trading planned for 11 March. The Opera Software shares will be traded under the ticker symbol OPERA.

The privately held company's revenues derive from sales of its multiplatform Web browser, a leading product in the smartphone and PDA markets. Mobile phone makers and network operators license the software from Opera for a fee, allowing it to be bundled with handsets or provided to users as a free download. The browser is also available on desktop platforms such as Windows, Linux and the Mac OS, both in paid-for and advertiser-supported versions.

Opera recorded revenues of 28.8m kroner for the quarter ended 31 December, up 108.7 percent from the same quarter in 2002, and earnings before interest and tax were 6.5m kroner.

Flotations of Internet companies were a staple of the dot-com boom era, regularly breaking all records and handing riches over to small, often untested companies. Such IPOs are now more of a rarity.

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