Japan's Rakuten buys under 10% stake in China's largest online firm Fanli

Rakuten Inc, Japan's largest e-commerce company, yesterday said that it has taken a less than 10-per cent stake in Fanli, China's largest online rebate and rebate-based flash sales company.

Rakuten did not disclose the exact size of the stake but said that the investment values the Chinese online shopping company at around $1 billion

As part of this investment, Kevin Johnson, CEO of Ebates, a Rakuten Group company, will join Fanli's board of directors.

Fanli is China's largest online rebate and rebate-based flash sales company with 70 million members, providing sales and promotion events for local and international brands, based on rebates, facilitating over 1 billion RMB in goods sales a month.

Ebates, which operates Chinese cross-border loyalty shopping sites Ebates.cn and Extrabux.com, is the largest online shopper loyalty program in the US. Rakuten, which acquired Ebates in 2014, is the largest e-commerce site in Japan and is currently, expanding its global market service and cross-border shopping capabilities.

"We are very excited to bring Rakuten on as an investor and welcome Kevin Johnson as a member of our board of directors,'' commented Gary Ge, CEO of Fanli. ''Rakuten is a genuine e-commerce pioneer with significant global experience and we look forward to working with Rakuten as we bring our vision to consumers across China and around the world.''

''This investment in Fanli reflects Rakuten and Ebates' ongoing interest in the rapidly evolving Chinese market,'' said Kevin Johnson. ''As the market continues to mature we believe consumers will demand world-class shopping experiences. Rakuten and Ebates hope to support Fanli's vision of fulfilling this role and exploring potential collaborations in China and abroad.''

Tokyo-based Rakuten has recently made a string of acquisitions as part of its plan to expand into the digital content market. It acquired a majority stake in Canada's ebook reader Kobo, and online video platform Viki.

It has also acquired an undisclosed stake in Silicon Valley's hottest start-up Pinterest, the online scrapbook site.