Rakuten to purchase Viber for $900 million


Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc is set to acquire call and messaging app maker Viber Media Inc in a $900 million payout as Internet magnate Hiroshi Mikitani expands his digital empire overseas.

Rakuten, Japan’s largest online retailer, has its eyes on the Cyprus-based call and messaging app to provide a distribution channel for its digital products as more people are moving from TVs and computers to mobile devices to consume and enjoy content, reports AFP.

“As smartphones become a more important communication tool than personal computers, Rakuten needs to find a way to link smartphones to its businesses,” said Naoki Fujiwara, a Tokyo-based chief fund manager at Shinkin Asset Management Co. “This deal is probably aimed at linking the two.”

Mikitani said the deal would more than double the number of Rakuten’s current 200 million users, thanks to the popular free messaging app’s 280 million users worldwide.

“The acquisition … will take Rakuten to a different level,” Mikitani said. He is also looking into creating a game platform for Viber.

“Viber understands how people actually want to engage and have built the only service that truly delivers on all fronts,” Mikitani said in a statement. “This makes Viber the ideal total consumer engagement platform for Rakuten.”

Rakuten already has under its wing online scrapbook site Pinterest Inc and digital book seller Kobo Inc. It bought video streaming site Viki last year.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Javier Domínguez Ferreiro/Flickr



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