Facebook has an ungodly amount of money burning in their pocket post-IPO, and the rumor mill has started grinding out stories that the social media giant will buy Opera, the Norwegian desktop and mobile browser company. I suppose it would be a logical move for Facebook. Getting into the browser game would give them a dominant position as the home base for the web, and Facebook has been rumored to be working on a mobile operating system, of which a solid mobile browser is a key component.
We haven’t covered Opera much, even though they’re probably the most well known Norwegian software company. Even though they haven’t gained a sizable market share, by now they seem more like an institution as old as the web, rather than a startup. They’ve been around since 1995, they’re listed on the Norwegian stock exchange, and the company boasts 750 employees around the world.
This is getting way into “a friend of a friend told me” stuff, but as basis to the rumors “a source close to Opera” tells TheNextWeb that the company is talking to potential buyers right now. The source also says that Opera currently has a hiring freeze, signaling that either something big is going to happen, or that they’re hoping something will happen.
Opera’s market cap is around $670 million (€540 million) with the stock price rising higher with the rumors, making Opera perhaps not the cheapest acquisition. Other potential buyers include Yandex and maybe even Google, according to TheNextWeb.
TechCrunch also points out that Opera just now released Opera Mini 7, aimed at your more basic feature phones. This update includes a SmartPage that ties in your Facebook and Twitter feeds directly into the browser, giving Opera much more social features. It also includes most visited sites, and links to other news sites based on your browser history. Essentially it packs much more of a punch than what most feature phones are used to.
Hitting this lower-end phone market will give Facebook much more of a push for those without the latest smartphone, and really help spread its mobile growth in areas of thew world where smartphones aren’t as prevalent. There’s a huge demand for this type of connectivity, as seen by Eskimi, the Lithuanian mobile social network for feature phones. By focusing on this market, last month they grew by 1 million users and served 1 billion ads, mostly in the African and Asian markets.
Both Facebook and Opera have given no comment, and said that all of these rumors are news to them. Time will tell, but it would be great to see some of that Facebook IPO cash make its way up to the Nordics.