Japan's Rakuten purchases Viber for $900 million

By Nicel Jane Avellana

Feb 14, 2014 10:25 AM EST

Rakuten said it will purchase messaging application Viber for $900 million, marking the latest and largest acquisition of the biggest internet company in Japan, TechCrunch reported.   

This is the newest and biggest acquisition of the largest Internet company in Japan that has been going on an aggressive acquisition campaign in its bid to the No.1 Internet services company in the world. This purchase also represents Rakuten's entry to the worldwide messaging market.

Rakuten Chief Executive Officer Hiroshi Mikitani said in a statement about the purchase, "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. Additionally, Viber has introduced a great sticker market and has tremendous potential as a gaming platform." At present, there are no games in Viber's app, the report said.

With the acquisition, Cyprus-based Viber will potentially be able to add the 225 million members of Rakuten Group to its existing 300 million registered users, the report said.

The partnership between Rakuten and Viber may prove to be challenging for its rival Line which claimed 300 million registered users as of November last year. This year, Line is targeting to grow its user base to 500 million. Both Line and Viber allows users to buy and send stickers to each other. Viber also beefed up its offering by adding Viber Out, a service that allows calls to be made to mobile and landline numbers for free, the report said.

In the past two years, Rakuten's purchases included Kobo, Wuaki.tv and Viki. Aside from making acquisitions, it also became the lead investor in Pinterest in the latter's May 2012 round that raised $100 million and valued the firm at $1.5 billion. Rakuten has also created a $10 million fund focused on supporting startups in Taiwan and Southeast Asia, considered as one the most rapidly-growing mobile marketplaces in the world, the report said.

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