Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten to buy instant messaging app Viber for $900 mn

Rakuten IncRakuten Inc, Japan's largest e-commerce company, today struck a deal to buy Cyprus-based messaging and VoIP service operator Viber Media Ltd for $900 million, in a bid to expand in emerging markets.

Founded in 2010 by American-Israeli entrepreneur and current CEO Talmon Marco, Viber was initially launched for Apple's iPhone.

Backed by investors, Viber, which competes with Microsoft's Skype is available over 3G/4G or WiFi connections that allow users to make free phone calls and text messages to all other Viber users.

The user can also call from a smartphones to a land line or mobile number that does not have Viber at low rates using ViberOut.

Viber is available for the iPhone, Android phones and tablets, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Windows, Windows 8, Mac, Linux, Symbian, Nokia S40 and Bada devices.

Rakuten, which has existing million users, will gain Viber's 300 million users from all over the world, who access its services ib 30 languages.

Tokyo-based Rakuten entered into global digital content in 2012 with the acquisition of Kobo Inc, one of the world's fastest-growing eReading services, Wuaki.tv, an innovative Europe-based video-on-demand and streaming service, and digital content platform, Viki, which now reaches 65 per cent of its 30 million monthly users through mobile devices.

Rakuten said that Viber perfectly complements its strategy in the digital space, and the acquisition will allow it to penetrate new markets with multiple digital content offerings, in combination with its e-commerce and financial services platforms.

''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. Simply put, Viber understands how people actually want to engage and have built the only service that truly delivers on all fronts,'' said Rakuten chairman and CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani.

In 2010   Rakuten acquired California-based shopping portal Buy.com for $250 million, marking its entry into the US market (See: Japan's Rakuten to acquire shopping portal Buy.com for $250 million).