Japanese online firm Rakuten, which owns Play.com, has bought messaging app Viber for £540m as it makes its first global push into voice communications.
The deal for Viber, which offers registered users free calls and text messages from mobile phones and computers for its 300m registered users, expands Rakuten’s global portfolio which includes travel, financial services, e-readers and affiliate marketing.
The firm said the move would enable it to penetrate new markets with multiple digital content offerings.
Rakuten Chairman and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said Viber had tremendous potential as a gaming platform. “We seek to bring our deep understanding of the consumer to vast new audiences through our dynamic ecosystem of Internet Services,” he said.
Viber Chief and Founder, Talmon Marco commented: “Sharing similar aspirations with Rakuten, our vision is to be the world’s No.1 communications platform and our combination with Rakuten is an important step in that direction.”
The deal may steal share out of Skype’s and Snapchat’s market, especially in developing countries where mobility is becoming more central to everyday life.
Nina Rahmatallah, Director at brand development firm Added Value said it was an interesting strategy from Rakuten because they have bought access to their customers.
“They’re not only thinking about the existing consumer base, but the future potential consumer base likely to adopt Viber in the same way as they have done with other apps such as BBM or Whatsapp,” she said. “If they are clever, they will develop plans that use Viber as a way to capture consumers and then cross-sell and up-sell them to other parts of their offer.”
Goldman, Sachs & Co. acted as sole financial advisor to Viber. White & Case LLP acted as sole legal advisor to Viber.