Chalk up another big acquisition for Japan’s Rakuten.
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 — something that rival apps like Line and Kik already offer — could eventually make their way to Viber.