Rakuten accelerates digital strategy with Viber acquisition

Rakuten has acquired Viber, a pioneering messaging and VoIP company, for $900 million.

Viber has a global user base of 300 million registered users. The acquisition will enable Rakuten to penetrate new markets with multiple digital content offerings, in combination with its e-commerce and financial services platforms.

Rakuten plans to leverage Viber’s approach to messaging and VoIP services to bolster its digital content offerings and its “Shopping is Entertainment” philosophy. The combination also unlocks new potential markets for Viber through Rakuten Group’s roughly 225 million global members, according to the company.

“I am tremendously excited to welcome Viber to the Rakuten family. Viber delivers the most consistently high quality and convenient messaging and VoIP experience available,” said Rakuten chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. “Additionally, Viber has introduced a great sticker market and has tremendous potential as a gaming platform. Simply put, Viber understands how people actually want to engage and have built the only service that truly delivers on all fronts. This makes Viber the ideal total consumer engagement platform for Rakuten as we seek to bring our deep understanding of the consumer to vast new audiences through our dynamic ecosystem of Internet Services.”

“Rakuten is one of the world’s most important Internet companies. It is truly dominant in its home market of Japan and has been rapidly expanding globally,” said Viber CEO and founder Talmon Marco. “This combination presents an amazing opportunity for Viber to enhance our rapid user growth in both existing and new markets. Sharing similar aspirations with Rakuten, our vision is to be the world’s No.1 communications platform and our combination with Rakuten is an important step in that direction.”

Rakuten launched its digital strategy in 2012 with the acquisition of Kobo, one of the world’s fastest-growing e-reading services, which now offers 4 million e-books, magazines and newspapers to customers in 190 countries. In 2012, Rakuten acquired Wuaki.tv, an innovative Europe-based video-on-demand and streaming service, which recently began its international expansion beyond Spain by offering customers in the U.K. its premier movie titles catalog and unique hybrid payment model. More recently, in September 2013, Rakuten acquired borderless digital content platform, Viki, which now reaches 65% of its 30 million monthly users through mobile devices.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as sole financial adviser to Viber. White & Case LLP acted as sole legal adviser to Viber.



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