The company behind the Opera web browser filed IPO documents in the US, as it looks to raise funds to boost its artificial intelligence (AI)-driven content discovery tools, improve its distribution and marketing and – potentially – for “strategic partnership, investment and acquisition opportunities”.
Opera Limited used a figure of $115 million for shares in its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), although is not unlikely this will change as details of the deal begin to firm-up.
The company is best known for its eponymous browser platform, which is available globally, with it stating: “Users in Africa and Asia are attracted to our mobile browsers because of their efficient design and usability, and users across North America and Europe choose our PC browsers because of their unique features”.
In the quarter ended 31 March 2018, its mobile browsers had 264.3 million average monthly mobile active users, of which 182 million were on smartphones. It also cited a “substantial” 57.4 million monthly average users for its Windows and macOS browsers.
It said browsers are “transforming from web-browsing utilities into smarter products providing users with faster, easier and more personalised access to internet content”. Using AI and big data, consumers are expecting products to deliver more personalised content discovery.
Opera launched Opera News, based on its AIRE content discovery and recommendation platform, as an integrated feature within mobile browsers in January 2017, followed by a standalone Opera News App in January. The company touted “tremendous user growth”, and also noted growth in user time spent in AIRE-enabled browsers.
“We believe that browsers and AI-powered content aggregation apps function as key engagement gateways that position their respective developers as effective gate keepers. By controlling the apps that users most often engage with, successful developers are positioned to influence user engagement across the internet economy – one of the largest and fastest growing economic ecosystems in the world,” it stated in the SEC filing.
Opera was loss-making in 2016, but turned a profit in 2017 and Q1 2018. The company’s sales come mainly through “agreements with our search partners, and partners that deliver services and advertisements to our users”. In 2017, 43.2 per cent of revenue game from Google and 12.9 per cent from Russian search giant Yandex.
The company noted that while it continues to diversify its partner base, “we anticipate that a limited number of partners will continue to contribute a significant portion of our revenue for the near future”.
On a corporate level, Opera has also had an interesting recent past. Originally, a Chinese consortium had looked to buy the company lock-stock-and-barrel, including its business-to-business assets, but this fell through.
The Chinese group then modified its offer to include only Opera’s consumer assets (such as the browser technology), which are now up for IPO. This deal was completed in November 2016.