Opera Ltd, the Oslo-based developer of Opera web browser and other affiliated services like OPay and OKash, has denied claims by an investment firm, Hindenburg Research, suggesting that its apps violate Google’s policy.
A brief statement that was issued on the company’s website acknowledged the Hindenburg report, and then called it misleading and unsubstantiated before proceeding to reiterate that the Opera brand is built on “high standards of corporate governance”.
“The Company is aware of and has carefully reviewed the report published by the short seller on January 16, 2020. The Company believes that the report contains numerous errors, unsubstantiated statements, and misleading conclusions and interpretations regarding the business and events relating to the Company.”
Focus on the allegation: The Hindenburg report, which was published on the 16th of January, made some really damaging allegations against Opera. According to the report, Opera’s lending platforms, which operate in Nigeria (OKash), Kenya, and India, have been violating a Google policy aimed at stamping out short-term payday loan apps from Google Play Store.
In other words, OKash, for instance, reportedly lures potential Nigerian customers with promises of longer-term loans, even though these offers are, as a matter of fact, short-term loans with outrageous charge rates that often exceed 300%.
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In view of this, therefore, the report asserted that Opera’s entire business model could be very much affected, should Google decide to look into the violations. Below are excerpts from the report.
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- Most of Opera’s lending business is operated through apps offered on Google’s Play Store. In August, Google tightened rules to curtail predatory lending and, as a result, Opera’s apps are now in black and white violation of numerous Google rules.
- Given that the vast majority of Opera’s loans are disbursed through Android apps, we think this entire line of business is at risk of disappearing or being severely curtailed when Google notices.
- Instead of disclosing to investors that its “high-growth” microfinance segment could be imperilled by these new rules, Opera instead immediately raised $82 million in a secondary offering without disclosing Google’s changes to investors.
- Opera’s short-term loan business now accounts for over 42% of the company’s revenue and is responsible for eye-popping top-line “growth”. Meanwhile, the segment experienced massive defaults (~50% of lending revenue) and company-wide cash flow has worsened.
In the meantime, Google has not reacted to this report no taken action towards punishing Opera for the alleged “violation”. It should also be noted that Opera’s OKash feature was temporarily removed following the report by Hindenburg Research.