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Japan’s Rakuten Buys Viber

The e-commerce giant is buying the voice call and messaging service provider for $900 million as it diversifies into digital content and services.

TOKYO Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten said Friday it is buying voice call and messaging service provider Viber for $900 million.

The deal is part of Rakuten’s diversification strategy beyond retail into the realm of digital content and services. In 2012, it bought e-reader manufacturer Kobo Inc. and Europe-based video-on-demand and streaming service Wuaki.tv. In September, it bought Viki, a video website similar to Hulu, that features international television shows and movies.

Rakuten said Viber’s rapidly growing user base of 300 million registered users complements Rakuten’s strategy “in the digital space.” Rakuten, a retailer often compared to both Amazon and eBay, said it counts roughly 225 million global members.

“Viber’s fun approach to messaging and high quality VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] services is a perfect marriage with Rakuten’s digital content offerings and its ‘Shopping is Entertainment’ philosophy laying the foundation for the world’s most comprehensive and engaging daily online platform,” Rakuten said.