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Rakuten accelerates digital strategy with Viber acquisition

BY CSA STAFF

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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REAL ESTATE

Westwood redoes North Park Plaza in Phoenix

BY Michael Fickes

Los Angeles, Calif. — Westwood Financial Corp., a national owner-operator of shopping centers, has completed remodeling work at North Park Plaza shopping center in Phoenix, Ariz. Safeway anchors the center. Regional and national tenants include Frazee Paint, Peter Piper Pizza, Subway and Great Clips.

Improvements to the 101,361-sq.-ft. center include a new façade, covering columns with stone, refreshed landscaping and a two-tone paint color scheme.

Westwood wanted to give the center a more contemporary look to fit in with the gentrifying community.

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REAL ESTATE

Whole Foods to Mayfair in Wauwatosa, Wis.

BY Michael Fickes

Chicago, Ill. — Whole Foods Market has signed a 45,150-sq.-ft. lease to anchor the second phase of The Mayfair Collection, a large-scale, mixed-use development in Wauwatosa, Wis. It will be the specialty grocer’s second store in the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

Plans for the second phase of the center also include approximately 50,000 sq. ft. of junior anchor retail space, a mix of upscale bars and restaurants, a bank branch and a 140-room hotel.

HSA Commercial Real Estate, which owns, manages and leases the property, plans to break ground on the second phase this spring with a planned opening for Whole Foods early in 2016.

Phase I of The Mayfair Collection adaptively repurposed functionally obsolete warehouse buildings along Highway 45 into new, contemporary retail environments to be occupied by Nordstrom Rack, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Old Navy, Ulta Beauty and others. The grand opening for Phase I is scheduled for April 3. Proposed future phases of the center include multifamily, office and medical facilities.

TOA Architects is the project architect and Premier Design + Build is the general contractor for the first two phases.

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