Deals

Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten snaps up voice calling app Viber for $900M

Image Credit: Viber

Chalk up another big acquisition for Japan’s Rakuten.

The e-commerce firm announced this morning that it has acquired Viber, a voice calling and messaging app with more than 200 million users, for $900 million, the Wall Street Journal reports.

As with many of Rakuten’s recent deals — which include a $315 million purchase of e-reader company Kobo in 2011 and a $250 million Buy.com acquisition a year earlier — Rakuten is aiming to become more of a global player by buying Viber. The company announced its first stab at video chats last year with its first desktop client, which makes it more of a Skype competitor than a mere mobile communications app.

“If we didn’t buy [Viber] now, I don’t think we could have bought it later, it’s growing so fast,” Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said in a presentation announcing the deal today.

As the WSJ points out, Viber still isn’t making any money yet, with a net loss of $29.5 million last year and revenues of only $1.5 million. The company is also unique for not taking any venture funding; instead, it’s been funded by “friends and family.”

Mikitani noted that the acquisition could easily allow Viber users to sign up for Rakuten accounts, and Viber could end up making some money for his company through the sale of virtual stickers (a popular feature in chat apps these days). He also hinted that mobile games —┬ásomething that rival apps like Line and Kik already offer — could eventually make their way to Viber.

More information:

Rakuten, Inc. is a Japanese electronic commerce and Internet company based in Tokyo, Japan. Among its numerous online properties, its flagship B2B2C model e-commerce site Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and among... read more »

Viber is developed by Viber Media, a pioneering mobile messaging and VoIP company. Viber lets everyone in the world connect. Freely. Viber users can send free text messages, photo messages, video messages and share locations anywhere ... read more »

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