updated 2/9/2004 2:07:51 PM ET 2004-02-09T19:07:51

Opera Software ASA, makers of a popular Web browser, on Monday announced that it plans to sell shares publicly for the first time and list its stock next month on the Oslo stock exchange.

The Oslo-based company was founded in 1995 by two former developers for the Norwegian telecommunications group Telenor as an offshoot of a company project.

Co-founder and chief executive Jon S. von Tetzchner said the time to make the company publicly held was now.

“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,” he said.

Though popular among a growing number of tech-savvy computer users, the Opera browser trails Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator in the browser market.

Compact and fast
But Opera’s browser, heralded by its users for being compact and fast, has gained ground as the platform of choice for use on mobile phones and personal digital assistant devices.

Opera is also working with Symbian, which is competing a with a handful of mobile operating systems including Microsoft’s Mobile Windows, Palm and Linux.

Since Opera’s software requires less memory than browsers made by Microsoft and Netscape, it can fit more functions into mobile phones and still offer full-scale Web browsing of standard Internet pages, the Oslo-base company contends.

Opera’s initial public offering will be managed by Enskilda Securities and ABG Sunda Collier, the company said.

Opera CFO Christian Jepsen said details of the initial public offering have not yet been decided, but hoped it could result in approximately “75 to 150 million kroner” or about $10 million to $20 million.

Currently, Opera’s workers hold a 70 percent stake in the company, with the remainder held by other private investors. The company employs 125 people

The company also reported Monday it earned nearly 1.3 million kroner ($182,000) in 2003 compared to a loss of 21.4 million kroner in 2002. Annual revenue rose to 78.5 million kroner ($11.3 million) from 51.1 million kroner in 2002.

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