March 11, 2004 7:09 AM PST

Opera IPO opens on high note

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Opera, the Norway-based browser maker, made its debut on the Oslo Stock Exchange on Thursday, with shares rising throughout the day.

In separate news, Opera released a new version of its mobile browser, with Kyocera as the first to deploy the software.

Opera, which makes a rival browser to Microsoft Internet Explorer for a variety of desktop and mobile phone operating systems, is one of a handful of tech companies making a cautious return to the financial markets.

The modest success of such flotations, including those of U.K. Bluetooth chipmaker Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) and Wolfson Microelectronics, are seen as marking investors' renewed interest in tech shares. Following the implosion of the dot-com bubble, investors have generally shunned tech-related shares.

The browser maker issued 12.5 million new shares for the initial public offering and said there were 20 times more buyers than shares available. Eighty-three percent of subscribers were foreign institutional investors. Shares rose from $1.43 (10 kroner) to $1.63 in late-day trading. While positive, it's a far cry from the explosive IPOs of the late 1990s.

The shares priced at the top of the expected range and trade under the ticker symbol OPERA. Employees, who still mostly own the company, separately sold about 11.8 million shares.

"The interest in our IPO and listing is an endorsement from the marketplace that Opera's technology is playing a significant role in the evolution of the Internet," Christian Thommessen, chairman of Opera's board, said in a statement.

Ringing in a browser update
The company said version 7 of its mobile browser, already on a new Itron-based handset from Kyocera that is shipping in Asia, supports dynamic Web pages including the Document Object Model.

Opera uses the same rendering engine for both its mobile and desktop software, making complex HTML content available on high-end mobile phones. The Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) browsers built into most handsets are capable only of displaying pages specifically built for mobile phones.

Kyocera is Opera's first major Asian customer.

Opera 7 for Smartphones also tweaks JavaScript support and support for bi-directional text, among other features.

The browser is currently supported on Windows, Linux, Mac, Symbian, QNX, TRON, FreeBDS, Solaris and Mediahighway. It is available on smart phones from Nokia, Sony Ericsson and others.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.

 

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