Japanese company Rakuten, that runs Play.com—the online retailer—has bought messaging and calling app Viber for in a USD 900 million deal. Viber is a mobile phone application that offers free texts and messages via the internet.
Rakuten is also the owner of Kobo—the Canadian e-reader, and the company says that its latest purchase will enable it to expand its digital footprint in markets that are still emerging. According to latest available figures, Cyprus-based Viber has nearly 300 million registered users.
According to Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani, the company’s acquisition of Viber is an entirely new strategy that will help take the company to a different level.
Talmon Marco, Viber’s founder and CEO said that this combination would prove to be an opportunity for the app to further enhance its rapidly growing user base in new as well as existing markets. He said that Viber was founded with the goal of being the number one communications platform globally, and the company being taken over by Rakuten could well be a step towards achieving this end.
Over the last couple of years, Rakuten has been bullish on purchases. In 2012, the company had purchased Wuaki.tv, a video-on-demand company based in Europe. It also picked up a stake in Pinterest, an online scrapbook website that has a large user base.
Viber is a widely used app in the Middle East and its founder worked in the capacity of chief information officer in the Israel Defense Force. While the company’s head office is currently based in Cyprus, its R&D center continues to be based out of Israel.
Some of the other apps in the market that Viber fiercely competes with are WeChat, Whatsapp, and Line.