updated 07:58 am EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Skype competitor purchased by Japanese e-commerce giant
Japanese retailer Rakuten has acquired Cyprus-based VoIP and messaging service Viber. The purchase, worth a total of $900 million, will see the Japanese Internet giant take control of Skype's biggest competitor, with the company claiming the purchase of Viber "perfectly complements Rakuten's strategy in the digital space" in its bid to become the "world's No.1 Internet services company."
Viber currently operates in close to 100 countries and boasts almost 300 million users since its launch in 2011. Though it has a vocal focus when compared to Line and other similar mobile and desktop messaging systems, the acquisition not only expands Rakuten's interests, but also increases the user base from its existing 225 million registered members, and expands the company's interests further abroad from its home country.
Speaking about the purchase to Recode, co-founder and CEO of Rakuten Hiroshi Mikitani claimed "This is a no-brainer. Messaging apps are taking over the world, and while search is one of the strongest platforms, what is happening in communications is very, very important." Mikitani continued by pointing out that, though the company offers various content, gaming, and commerce services, adding a communication product "can make buying more secure, but also more human."
Aside from its central e-commerce operations, Rakuten is also an invester in Pinterest, and owns video service Viki and e-book reader manufacturer Kobo.