By: Gigaom
Opera founder sells shares, potentially clearing way for acquisition
Last time someone was rumored to be interested in buying Opera, the Norwegian browser-maker's founder voiced his displeasure. But now he's reduced his holding and could no longer block a sale.

It’s been almost nine months since rumors were flying around about a certain social network seeking to buy Opera, the Norwegian browser company. We still don’t know how much truth there was in that supposed scenario, but we do know that Jon von Tetzchner, Opera’s founder, was not keen on the idea as he favored more long-term development instead.

A rare opportunity to show this old picture of Jon von Tetzchner, scanned from Opera promotional material circa 2008

A rare opportunity to show this old picture of Jon von Tetzchner, scanned from Opera promotional material circa 2008

Even if Facebook did want to purchase Opera, von Tetzchner could have blocked the sale. He was by that point no longer the CEO, or for that matter even involved in the day-to-day business, but he did have just over 10 percent of its shares.

No longer. As reported by the Norwegian press on Tuesday, von Tetzchner has recently been reducing his stake in the company he founded, and now has only 5.18 percent of the shares. A spokesman for Opera confirmed this to me this afternoon.

This means that, if a buyer were to come along now, Opera could theoretically sell out. Obviously the spokesman wouldn’t comment on any speculation there.

Why would someone buy Opera? Well, the company may never have gotten past the low single digits in desktop browser market share, but it continues to do very well in the mobile space. This is largely because Opera offers big savings on data costs — its browsers can use server-side compression, so that the user uses fewer bits as they surf the web.

And with the big growth in mobile now happening in emerging markets, particularly those in Africa and south-east Asia, this stuff counts. People there want to upgrade from featurephones to smartphones, but data is still frequently expensive relative to earnings.

It would be somewhat premature to theorize who might want to pick Opera up at this point, but I’d be very surprised if no-one was interested.

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