Japanese Ecommerce Giant Rakuten Buys Viber for $900 Million

Two weeks ago, it was confirmed that Israeli entrepreneur Talmon Marco would be selling Viber Media Inc. to Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten Inc. The call and messaging app, which is one of the top five most downloaded smartphone apps, carries with it a $900 million price tag. Rakuten has now completed this acquisition – Viber is now officially Rakuten Inc. property.

Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten (above) has finished their acquisition of messaging app Viber (below).

Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten (above) has finished their acquisition of messaging app Viber (below).

Part of Rakuten’s Reinvention

Rakuten Inc., run by billionaire Hiroshi Mikatani, owns the ecommerce platform Rakuten Ichiba, which is the sixth largest in the world in terms of sales. Rakuten Ichiba offers shopping, online video, financing and other services. Mikatani is looking to expand their offerings with a messaging app, and sees the acquisition as moving a step closer towards being a one-stop online shop.

According to Mikatani, Viber will be integrated with Rakuten Ichiba to get online shoppers in touch with online stores while deciding on their purchase. This move will add 300 million Viber users to Rakuten’s 200 million users, expanding their reach and connecting more online stores and consumers. It also makes their plan of improving online communications for ecommerce easy – according to Mikatani, having Viber within their group saves them the trouble of developing an in-house messaging app, something they feel they are not equipped to do on their own.

Still Running Independently

The acquisition doesn’t mean Rakuten will take over Viber’s operations entirely. What happens from hereon out is quite the opposite – according to the deal, Viber will continue to operate independently, but they are now part of the Rakuten Inc. group. This means all employees, management, and offices will continue to run as usual.

Just as Rakuten will benefit from an increase in users and from the technology, Viber is also looking at the benefits brought by the acquisition. Marco sees the merger as an opportunity to tap into the Japanese market, and to ride its global expansion. “This combination presents an amazing opportunity for Viber to enhance our rapid user growth in both existing and new markets,” Marco said in an interview with a local newspaper in the Philippines.

In addition, Marco also revealed that they will not be changing Viber’s basic services anytime soon. There are no plans of including Rakuten’s ecommerce features into Viber just yet, but this could change in the future. He did note that “it is likely that Rakuten’s massive span of services ranging from ecommerce to e-books to travel businesses and many other ventures will be made available over time to Viber users.”



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