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Opera plans public offering

Norway-based Opera Software reports higher revenue and says it is preparing for an initial public offering on the Oslo Stock Exchange in March.

Opera Software on Monday reported higher revenue and said it is preparing for an initial public offering on the Oslo Stock Exchange in March.

The Norwegian company is the maker of the popular Opera Web browser, which is available on platforms such as Windows, Linux and the Mac OS. In addition, the browser is available for free in a version that has advertisements, from which Opera also derives revenue.

In recent months, the company has gained in popularity with a version of its browser for smart phones, or mobile phones that also have the functions of handheld computers. Mobile phone makers and network operators license the software from Opera for a fee, allowing it to be bundled with handsets or provided to consumers as a free download.

The company said that nine years of refinements to its browser technology and commercial business paved the way for a public offering. "Opera has come far, and a public listing will give us more flexibility to expand our position as a leading player in the Internet arena," Jon von Tetzchner, chief executive of Opera, said in a statement.

Opera's joint lead managers for the IPO are Enskilda Securities and ABG Sundal Collier.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, Opera earned 1.3 million kroner ($190,000), compared with a loss of 21.4 million kroner ($3.1 million) in the same period a year ago.

In October, Opera reached its first deal to include its Web browser as a default application on Nokia's 6600 smart phone. Opera had been distributing browsers for handsets from Nokia, Sony Ericsson and others for several months. But until the 6600 deal, it was up to the consumer to download the browser from the Web or install it from a CD.

PalmSource, Microsoft and others make browsers that compete with Opera in the mobile market. On the desktop side, Microsoft's Internet Explorer is by far the dominant browser, with Opera, Mozilla and a few others competing for a sliver of the market.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London.